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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 November, 2003, 14:24 GMT
Church explores gay debate
Gene Robinson becomes Bishop of New Hampshire
The consecration of a gay bishop in the US sparked controversy
A Church of England document is urging a full debate on homosexuality.

Some Issues in Human Sexuality, published on Tuesday, attempts to explore aspects of gay, lesbian and transsexual relationships.

It comes two days after the controversial consecration of the first openly gay bishop in the United States, which threatens global church unity.

The Church of England has insisted the document does not favour any view or recommend change to current policy.

The guide says homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people should be treated with "compassion" and as equal Christians.

Referring to homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people, it said: "It is likely that they will have encountered misunderstandings or hostility from members of the Christian Church in the past, and, if the Christian gospel is to be meaningful to them, it will need to be incarnated in terms of Christ's love.

We have done a great deal of work as a church on this matter and we know that there is much still to be learned
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury
"If this is in the context of pastoral care, then that must offer them understanding, support, and unconditional love as they seek to meet the challenges to Christian discipleship that their particular form of sexuality raises."

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, who chaired the working party which drew up the paper, headed a launch of the document in London.

Bishop Harries, speaking as the new guide was published, said: "Recent events have highlighted the need for such a guide and the House of Bishops believe it has become timely to publish this study guide now to help Christian people think through different aspects of gay, lesbian and transsexual relationships."

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, said: "It is clear that there is a real need for more study of the issues raised by human sexuality.

"We have done a great deal of work as a church on this matter and we know that there is much still to be learned."

Celibacy

Mr Harries said this was no attempt to change a 1991 document entitled Issues in Human Sexuality, which said gay people in long-term relationships should not be excluded from the fellowship of the Christian church or from Holy Communion.

That document demanded celibacy from gay clergy because of their status.

Anglican traditionalists hold that homosexual practices are against biblical teaching and see such arguments as a wider liberal agenda within the church.

The consecration of Gene Robinson - who has lived with his male partner for 15 years - in New Hampshire on Sunday has led to a crisis within the church.

The consecration was immediately condemned by African church leaders, while the church's leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, said divisions arising from the appointment were "a matter of deep regret".





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