Letters have emerged in which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, reveals his belief that homosexual relationships can be compared to marriage.
The Times newspaper obtained the letters, which were written by Dr Williams in 2000 and 2001. In them he argues that committed homosexual relationships can “reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage”.
The letters came to light just days after the conservative Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, accused Anglican leaders of a “deep betrayal” in allowing the consecration of homosexual Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.
Their publication is likely to do further damage to Dr Williams’s credibility in the eyes of evangelical Anglicans. Canon Chris Sugden, of Anglican Mainstream, has called the Archbishop’s position “untenable”.
The letters reveal how, as a university lecturer during the 1980s, Dr Williams’s orthodox views on sexuality had been “unsettled” by arguments that the Bible’s teaching only prohibits heterosexuals from engaging in homosexual activity, but did not apply to those who were “homosexual by instinct or nature”.
After further consideration, he writes, he reached the conclusion “that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness”.
In a second letter, he said that ceremonies of homosexual commitment could be possible, but was “wary of anything that looks like heterosexual marriage being licensed, because marriage has other dimensions to do with children and society”.
Dr Williams was joined earlier this year by Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, in expressing “great concern” over the wedding-like service for two male Anglican clergy conducted by the rector of St Bartholomew the Great in London.
However, around 200 bishops took the decision to boycott the recent Lambeth Conference, a ten-yearly gathering of Anglican Bishops, because of Dr Williams’s decision not to exclude the American clergy involved in Gene Robinson’s consecration.