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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 November 2005, 15:11 GMT
Archbishop attacked in gay debate
Rowan Williams
The archbishop wants the Synod to spend more time in reflection
Some of the Anglican communion's archbishops have strongly criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for his views on gay clergy.

A number of archbishops signed a letter urging him to act against "unrepented sexual immorality" in the Church.

It was published hours after Dr Rowan Williams called for reconciliation in a speech to the General Synod in London.

Dr Williams had warned against tensions in the Church over homosexuality and the ordination of women priests.

Ultra-conservatives

The Times newspaper reported that the opposition came from 14 "Global South" primates headed by the ultra-conservative Nigerian archbishop, Dr Peter Akinola.

There are 38 primates in the Anglican Communion.

The letter, published on the Global South Anglican website on Wednesday night, urged Dr Williams to rethink his personal liberal views on homosexuality.

The letter said his "personal dissent" from the consensus of the wider Church that "same-sex sex is unacceptable" had stopped him from taking necessary steps to confront the US and Canadian churches.

The archbishops wrote: "The essence of libertinism is the severing of the grace of Christ from His moral commandments", it said.

They said they believed this "was at the heart of our present divisions".

Gay partnerships

They also said they were troubled by Dr William's reluctance to challenge the US Episcopal Church and the Canadian Anglican Church to call for the cessation of ordinations of active homosexuals and of same-sex blessings.

The archbishops demanded he should issue these churches with a warning and threaten them with exclusion from the bishops' 10-yearly gathering, the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the Times reported.

If (this letter) is an attempt to foreclose that debate it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed
Rev Jonathan Jennings
Lambeth Palace spokesman

The letter also said the Church of England should have sought exemption from the Civil Partnership Act, which comes into force next month and will allow gay couples to legally register their relationships.

Dr Williams had told synod members they should beware of "poisoning the wells" and should conduct their debates without hostility.

He had urged opponents in the gay debate to communicate and pray with each other to resolve divisions.

Lambeth Palace spokesman Reverend Jonathan Jennings said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury has made it clear since before his enthronement that neither he nor anyone else has any mandate to change the church's teaching by fiat.

"He is committed to the process to which all the primates committed themselves and their provinces in the response to the Windsor Report and contained in the Dromantine communiqué.

"If this letter is a contribution to that process of debate, then it is to be welcomed, however robust.

"If it is an attempt to foreclose that debate it would seem to serve very little purpose indeed."


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