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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 01:40 GMT 02:40 UK
Church should accept gays - archbishop
The Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams believes the Bible does not condemn homosexuality
The Church of England should be more accepting of homosexuality, the Archbishop of Canterbury has reportedly argued.

According to a biography of Dr Rowan Williams serialised in The Times newspaper, the head of the church believes faithful gay partnerships could be accepted by many Christians.

Rupert Shortt says in his book, Rowan Williams: An Introduction, that Dr Williams believes this would not necessarily be at odds with biblical teachings.

"His private view remains that an adjustment of teaching on sexuality would not be different from the kind of flexibility now being shown to divorcees who wish to remarry," Mr Shortt wrote.

It could also be comparable to the "softening of the Church's once total opposition to borrowing with interest, or the 19th and 20th-century shifts of view on subjects like slavery and eternal hellfire".

Dr Williams has previously argued for tolerance for homosexuals, and has admitted ordaining a gay priest.

But he also insisted he intends to abide by the traditional teachings of the church, thus precluding the ordination of actively gay priests.

Dr Williams and 37 other archbishops met in Brazil last week to discuss the matter.

St Paul

They debated a report which spoke of "anarchy and division" if the church decided to formalise homosexual relationships through an official ceremony or blessing.

The meeting was in private but Dr Williams is understood to have spoken in support of the report.

Many Christians opposed to homosexual relationships cite passages from the Bible - particularly in Leviticus and the writings of St Paul - prohibiting homosexual practices.

But many passages in the Bible - such as those sanctioning slavery, or condemning borrowing with interest - are now routinely ignored by theologians.

Last year the Church softened its stance on marriage after divorce, giving its blessing to divorced couples seeking a church wedding "in exceptional circumstances".

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