Carey defends 'celebration of gay sex'

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The Independent Online
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, yesterday tried to calm the growing row over a lesbian and gay service of thanksgiving to be held in Southwark cathedral next Saturday by distancing himself from the proposed event, while defending the right of the organisers to worship.

The decision to allow the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) to use the cathedral to celebrate their 20th anniversary had been nothing to do with him. "[It] is, quite properly, entirely the responsibility of the Provost and Chapter of Southwark cathedral," he said.

"This was not a decision taken by bishops individually or collectively and it does not reflect any change in the position outlined in the House of Bishops' statement on issues in human sexuality in 1991."

The statement he referred to suggested that homosexual relationships among the laity were sometimes acceptable, but never among the clergy. It has been ceaselessly attacked since then as an illogical and unsustainable compromise by both pro- and anti-gay groups.

Dr Carey said yesterday that "the House of Bishops is not about to change the position outlined in that statement ... To make a church or cathedral available to Christian people for worship and prayer, or to preach at such a gathering, cannot properly be taken as an endorsement of whatever the congregation wants," Dr Carey's statement continued.

This is believed to be a reference by the decision of the Bishop of Guildford, Dr John Gladwyn, to preach at the service, which will also be attended by an American bishop, the Rt Rev Walter Righter, who was last year acquitted by an American church court of heresy after he ordained a practising homosexual priest.

The Diocese of Southwark, which covers London south of the Thames, has been riven by the decision to hold the service. Evangelicals collected nearly 100 clergy signature for a petition against the festival, which they describe as "a celebration of 20 years of gay sex"; supporters collected slightly more.

Some of the largest evangelical parishes are planning to withhold funds from the diocese in protest. One is planning to break off all relations with the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Roy Williamson, and to place itself under the protection of the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst.

Dr Carey said he disagreed with "some of the aims of the LGCM ... For example, the bishops cannot regard homosexual practice as on a par with heterosexual practice within marriage". But he refused to exclude them from the Church: they are, he said, "Christian people loved by God who are our brothers and sisters in Christ." To allow them to worship was, he said, "A mark of recognition that followers of Christ should cherish all that they have in common, notwithstanding strong differences of opinion on particular issues."

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