Gay bishops are OK, says Archbishop of Canterbury - as long they remain celibate

Support: The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams says he has 'no problem' with gay bishops

Support: The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams says he has 'no problem' with gay bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury said he has 'no problem' with gay people being bishops as long as they remain celibate.

Dr Rowan Williams signalled his personal support for the consecration of gay bishops in the Church of England.

But he said he would never endorse bishops in active homosexual relationships because of tradition and historical 'standards' that require gay clergy to remain celibate.

His comments, made in an interview with The Times, sparked accusations from equality campaigners that he was putting Church unity above the rights of gay and lesbian people.

He also risks deepening divisions within the Church of England and the wider Anglican communion.

Liberals are likely to be angered by the Archbishop's insistence that celibacy must be compulsory for homosexual clergy but not for heterosexuals.

Conservatives would argue his stance puts him at odds with church teaching.

Dr Williams also revealed he will retire before his full term as Archbishop ends in 10 years, saying: 'I will not be doing this job when I'm 70.'

He said that he had been 'conscious' of the issue of homosexuality as 'a wound in the whole ministry' since his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

But said he had to decide against endorsing gay relationships for clergy and bishops because 'the cost to the Church overall was too great to be bourne at that point'.

He said: 'To put it very simply, there's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there's always a question about the personal life of the clergy.'

Dr Williams admitted that one of the most difficult periods in his eight years at Lambeth Palace came when he blocked the appointment of the gay, celibate cleric Jeffrey John to the post of Bishop of Reading.

He said that he let down Dr John, who was instead appointed Dean of St Albans.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told the newspaper that the Archbishop was being inconsistent.

He said: 'Yet again, Rowan is sitting on the fence regarding gay clergy...I don't know how Rowan sleeps at night.

'Before he became Archbishop of Canterbury, he supported gay inclusion and equality. Now he victimises gay clergy like Jeffrey John and goes out of his way to accommodate some of the most hateful Christian homophobes in the world.

'In his eyes, Church unity is more important than the human rights of lesbian and gay people.'

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