Carey apologises to Christian gays

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The Independent Online
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, yesterday apologised to lesbian and gay Christians for the pain they have experienced as a result of the Lambeth Conference of bishops' hardline resolution on homosexuality, and underlined his commitment to dialogue.

In his first and only appearance to the media during the conference, Dr Carey, president of the worldwide Anglican Communion, attempted to appease liberal Anglicans by stressing that lesbian and gay Christians are "full members of the Body of Christ".

"On human sexuality, we have been quite open in acknowledging our differences," he said. "We have worked hard, and the result, while restating a traditional position on homosexual practice, clearly includes homosexual people in the Church. We have clearly stated that all baptised people are full members of the Body of Christ, and we specifically included the commitment to continue to listen to the experience of gay and lesbian Christians.

"I am sad that our resolution has caused them such pain. I can only try to reassure them of my commitment to continue to listen, and to try to understand more of their experience of the Church, and I invite them to continue the journey with us, however painful, and I ask them to listen to the voice of the Church as much as the rest of us must listen to them."

Dr Carey's reassurance came at the end of three weeks of bitter disagreement between the alliance of evangelical bishops and those from Africa and Asia who reject homosexuals as sinners, and liberal bishops, particularly from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Bishops from the latter countries, where practising homosexuals are knowingly ordained, wanted the Church to relax its attitude to gays by sanctioning the blessing of same-sex unions and officially accepting the ordination of practising gays.

Dr Carey, who himself adopts a traditional stance on homosexuality, stunned delegates during the conference when he turned up at a drinks party hosted by the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. He defended the idea that there could be dialogue despite the strongly-worded statement which even did away with word "chastity" because it might be open to misinterpretation. Instead the word "abstinence" appeared as an alternative to marriage in the final resolution.

"The thrust of dialogue does not assume we begin from a place of wishy- washiness," he said.

The resolution passed on Wednesday comes down firmly in favour of a literal interpretation of Scripture on matters of homosexuality. It was, Dr Carey said, a "defining moment". However, he added: "I don't rule out where the debate will take us. I know, as someone rooted in Scripture, that I am much more comfortable with the text of the resolution we passed (as opposed to earlier, more liberal texts)."

The Bishop of Edinburgh, the Right Rev Richard Holloway, yesterday apologised for a public attack the previous day on Dr Carey's contribution to the homosexuality debate. He had described it as "pathetic", little more than "a nice fluffy epilogue". And when asked about the quality of Dr Carey's leadership preceding the vote, he had asked: "What leadership?"

Bishop Holloway yesterday apologised for using the word "pathetic". "I now acknowledge that the word I used in my pain and frustration was ill-judged and hurtful and I hereby unreservedly apologise for using it."

Although Dr Carey had failed to prevent the conference being dominated by the issue of homosexuality, he said he was not disheartened. "I believe we are going to make huge progress on international debt and the ministry to young people."

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