Gay-friendly archbishop faces fresh criticism

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 10 2003 12:00 AM ET

The new archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, faced a new threat to his authority Wednesday after one of Australia's senior church leaders joined critics of Williams's liberal stance on homosexuality, reports The [London] Daily Mail. The archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, said he may be willing to provide alternative leadership for scores of dissenting Church of England parishes that want to distance themselves from the archbishop of Canterbury.

Jensen, who is about to start a speaking tour on the future of the Anglican Church, said he would be wary of direct intervention in the Church of England--a move that could provoke a serious schism--but did not rule it out.

Jensen said that his "initial concern" about Williams, who has dismayed evangelicals by ordaining a noncelibate gay man, "has begun to turn to anxiety." He said he had waited to see whether Williams would bring his liberal views on homosexuality "in line with Scripture" but had been disappointed. "This suggests that he will use his teaching office--and his considerable personal gifts--to endorse unscriptural views," Jensen said.

Williams, who is planning to meet with Jensen, has attempted to reassure his critics, saying that while he believes privately that noncelibate gay people can be priests, he will not impose his views on others. Evangelicals have nevertheless interpreted his plea for "honest debate" on the issue as a coded call for the church to relax its ban on such ordinations as well as on the blessing of same-sex unions.

Meanwhile, Williams is said to be considering withdrawing from a major conference on gay clergy in October, which is being organized by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. He has told friends that he is worried that the conference at Manchester University could be used by militant campaigners for gay rights to promote their cause rather than as an exercise in "listening." His presence at the conference is already being advertised, and any decision not to participate would represent a huge blow for the church's liberal wing.

A spokesman said that Williams had not yet confirmed whether he will attend.