Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of
the Anglican Communion, says he's okay with gay bishops, but they
must remain celibate.
“To put it very simply, there's no
problem about a gay person who's a bishop,” Williams told the Times
of London. “It's about the fact that there are traditionally,
historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So
there's always a question about the personal life of the clergy.”
As the Archbishop of Canterbury,
Williams presides over the 77 million-member Anglican Communion, a
global network of churches that includes the U.S. Episcopal Church.
Episcopalians have appointed two openly
gay, partnered bishops since 2003 – the latest in May – angering
conservatives, some of whom walked away to form a new church, the
Anglican Church in North America.
Williams has repeatedly warned
Episcopalians against such moves, a position that mollified neither
progressives nor conservatives in the church. The Vatican has
reached out to disappointed conservative Anglicans by making it
easier for them to join the Catholic Church, whose teachings hold
that being gay is sinful.
UK gay rights activist Peter Tatchell
pointed out that Williams once supported gay clergy.
“Before he became Archbishop of
Canterbury, he supported gay inclusion and equality,” he told the
paper. “Now he victimizes gay clergy.”
Writing at UK daily the Telegraph,
Damian Thompson, called the interview “disastrous” for Williams'
wishy-washy positions on the subject.
While Williams said he was okay with
gay bishops so long as they remain celibate – a requirement not
asked of heterosexual clergy – he answered “Pass” when asked if
he hoped “that one day gay bishops can have partners.”
“What will it take, I wonder, for my
liberal Catholic friends to recognize that – irrespective of your
views on this matter – Rowan Williams emerges from this debate
neither as a radical prophet nor a defender of biblical morality, but
as a source of confusion and anxiety?” Thompson wrote.