Carey calls for tolerance as US ordains gays

Homosexual priests: Opponents warn that the Archbishop's failure to condemn robs Anglican Communion of meaning
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The Independent Online
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has appealed again for tolerance and the acceptance of division in the Anglican world. He was speaking during a visit to the United States, at a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the diocese of Los Angeles where the bishop has admitted to ordaining active homosexual priests.

Dr Carey's opposition to such ordinations is well-known. But his refusal to condemn them was yesterday attacked by a leading English opponent of gay priests, who warned that such equivocation would rob the structures of the Anglican Communion of all meaning.

"I think he's got to make it plain for the avoidance of doubt that the ordination of practising homosexuals is totally unacceptable within the Anglican Communion and a failure to do that will have serious consequences," said the Rev David Holloway, Rector of Jesmond, Newcastle.

Dr Holloway was one of the architects of the General Synod motion of 1987 condemning homosexual acts, which has since been partially replaced by more gay-friendly statements from the bishops and archbishops of the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church of America, though it acknowledges Dr Carey's primacy and welcomes his visits, takes little notice of any Archbishop of Canterbury. At the same time as the Church of England's General Synod has been trying to hold the line against openly gay priests in Britain, the US has seen a period of advances for the pro-gay lobby. Bishop Walter Righter, who last year became the first American bishop to be tried for heresy since 1923, was acquitted just before Dr Carey arrived in the US from Bermuda, where he had been consecrating a bishop.

Bishop Righter's "crime" had been to ordain a gay priest, knowing that he was involved in a relationship. The court did not pronounce on whether this was right or wrong, but it concluded that there was no core doctrine of the episcopal church to prohibit his action: it is up to individual bishops' discretion to decide whether being involved in a homosexual relationship disbars a candidate for ordination.

The bishop's return to New Jersey was celebrated by a service "affirming inclusive love" in front of Barry Stopfel, the priest he ordained, and Rev Stopfel's partner, the Rev Will Leckie. The euphoric atmosphere has been undimmed by the fact that the Dean of the Anglican cathedral in New Jersey has resigned to fight a sexual harassment case brought against him by a man.

In a similar development, Dean Frederick Northrup, of Seattle's Anglican Cathedral, blessed a homosexual couple on the day of Dr Carey's arrival in the US. "Let their vows be without shame," he said at the ceremony: "A sign of the new world of justice and peace."

"Leadership does demand that at certain points certain things have to be ruled out," said Dr Holloway when he heard of this. However, Dr Carey has put forward the view that the contribution of the Anglican Communion to world Christianity lies in its graceful handling of profound disagreements.