Sydney's conservative Anglican archbishop on Monday branded homosexuality a "gross public sin" and criticized others in the church for blessing same-sex unions. Archbishop Peter Jensen's comments came just days before an emergency meeting this week in London of the 38 primates, or leaders, of the world's Anglican churches. The meeting will seek a way to bridge differences that many regard as
irreconcilable over the faith's teachings on homosexuality. The worldwide Anglican community has become polarized over the ordination in the United States of an openly gay Episcopalian bishop as well as the controversy over blessing same-sex unions.
Jensen is not a primate and will not be at the London meeting. But he holds considerable influence within the Australian church as the top Anglican clergyman in Australia's most populous city. Speaking to a meeting of Sydney's Anglican Synod, Jensen said the church worldwide "has been put to its severest test this year" by the dispute. In a speech that also included condemnation of the ordination of women priests, Jensen said, "The warnings [in the Scripture] about same-sex practices create a fresh level of concern; they put the practitioners at deadly spiritual risk." He said homosexuality is "part of a list of other gross public sins." Heterosexual and homosexual "immorality" should disqualify a person from active ministry, he said. "These are salvation issues, and we cannot falter in making our opposition
clear, even if it were to cost us everything we hold dear," he said.
While Jensen is a vocal member of the conservative wing of the 77 million-member global Anglican Communion, Australia's primate, archbishop of Perth Peter Carnley, is considered a liberal. Carnley said earlier this year he doubted the issue of gay bishops and same-sex unions would tear the communion apart. "We have to have a debate about how to apply the biblical principles...to this modern and contemporary issue," he said.