The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a “profound apology” to the lesbian and gay Christian community today.
In a powerful address to the General Synod, Dr Rowan Williams warned that any schism within the Church would represent a betrayal of God’s mission.
But he made clear that he regretted recent rhetoric in which he has sought to mollify the fears of the traditionalist wing of the church.
The Archbishop is from the Church’s liberal wing and a man who once espoused equal rights for gays within the Church. More recently he has adopted a conservative line for the sake of Church unity.
Today he said: “There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them.
“I have been criticised for doing just this and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.”
Addressing the even more contentious debate over gay ordinations — something which threatens to split the Church farther with the expected consecration in May of Canon Mary Glasspool, a lesbian, as a bishop in Los Angeles — Dr Williams said it had not been helped by those who ignored the fact that many worshippers were gay, as well as many “sacrificial and exemplary priests”.
He made it clear that there was blame on all sides of the argument that has brought the Church to the brink of splitting. He pleaded for Anglicans angry over gays and women bishops to cease fighting, admitting that he and other bishops might have to settle for a two-tier communion.
In his wide-ranging address at Church House Westminster, Dr Williams said that the ordination of women bishops should not go ahead at the expense of the Church’s Anglican Catholic wing, which is currently assessing an offer from the Pope to move over to Rome into a new Anglican Ordinariate.
Dr Williams admitted: “Most hold that the ordination of women as bishops is good, something that will enhance our faithfulness to Christ and our integrity in mission.”
But this good was jeopardised by the potential loss of traditionalists and some evangelicals who oppose women bishops.
Referring to proposals to give women bishops a lesser level of authority, he said the reform should not happen if it is done in such a way that that will “corrupt it or compromise it fatally”.
Dr Williams said that attacks on the Anglican Covenant, a new unity document intended to find a way to keep the 38 provinces under one umbrella, were mistaken.
by Ruth Gledhill
February 9, 2010