Bishop widens church rift on homosexual priests

Rifts within the Church of England deepened last night as a former bishop voiced his support for homosexual priests.

Dr John Austin Baker, the former Bishop of Salisbury, warned of splits within the Church unless the issue was addressed. He was speaking after gay-rights activists scaled the walls of Lambeth Palace on Sunday to confront Dr George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, over the Church's stance on homosexuals.

Speaking at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Dr Baker said he disagreed with the statement by the House of Bishops in 1991 that someone in a gay relationship could not be a priest: "The bishops saw same-sex erotic relationships as incompatible with the clerical vocation ... I find myself obliged to now dissent from that judgement." In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury described Dr Baker's speech as "a very significant departure from the Church's current mind". Ian Burrell