Anglican diocese accepts polygamists but rejects gays

BY Advocate.com Editors

June 26 2003 12:00 AM ET

The Anglican diocese in Sydney has said it's OK for members of the clergy to practice polygamy, but they can't be gay, even if they're celibate, The Australian reports. The diocese justifies the apparent contradiction by noting what it considers the Bible's outright condemnation of homosexuality compared with its oblique disapproval of a man taking several wives. In a statement released Monday, the diocese also said that two gay bishops-elect--one in England and one in the United States--are unwelcome in the diocese. The statement goes on to say that the worldwide Anglican communion is in danger of rupturing because of several recent developments, including the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John, who has been with the same partner for 27 years, as bishop of Reading in England; the blessing of same-sex unions by Bishop Michael Ingham in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster; and the election of Gene Robinson as bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, released a statement Tuesday responding to criticism of the nomination of Canon John. Williams said John had given "explicit assurances on various matters, including his personal circumstance," a reference to the fact that gay men can take up a ministry as long as they are celibate. He also issued a stern message to those who were outspoken in their opposition. "It is not for anyone outside the diocese to override or preempt what is obviously a painful and complex process," Williams said.

One of the signatories to the Sydney statement, North Sydney bishop Glenn Davies, stressed that the diocese's opposition to Canon John was based on his lack of repentance for his years of homosexual activity rather than on his current celibacy. Davies said priests who have had sex outside marriage also are banned because of biblical teaching. Asked whether polygamists are acceptable to the Sydney diocese, Davies said that while it is far from ideal, it is tolerable to have a minister with more than one wife.

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