Carey gives full support to Durham's bishop-elect

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THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, yesterday gave his full support to the Bishop- elect of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull, whose reception by his new diocese has been put in doubt by the discovery of a conviction for gross indecency in a public lavatory in Hull 26 years ago.

'Why should such an act committed when he was a young man of 31 stop him becoming Bishop of Durham 26 years later?' Dr Carey asked an audience of community leaders in Rochester, Bishop Turnbull's previous diocese.

'Through God's grace, those who repent of sin can recover and start again. The Bishop of Durham is an honourable man who has learned important lessons from this regrettable and deeply regretted incident. Since then he has exercised a blameless ministry.'

However, the archbishop conceded that the affair had been painful for the church. 'We have high standards and high expectations,' he told a press conference. 'A thing like this distresses not only the Bishop of Durham, but also myself as a leader, because we all feel compromised and our message vitiated.'

Asked how the bishop could deny that he was a homosexual when he had been caught in a compromising position in a public lavatory, Dr Carey said: 'I can't shed any light on that at all, and I don't believe it is necessary to revisit what was obviously a very painful moment for him. Christian morality embraces forgiveness, fresh starts and resurrection through God's grace, as well as obedience, punishment and repentance.'

The archbishop intended his speech to be a clear statement of the importance of Christian morality to modern society. 'Morality is indivisible,' he said. 'We cannot limit it to the private area. It spills over into every compartment of life.'

Dr Carey demanded that political practice and the law in Britain reflect Christian beliefs. 'There are eternal truths about what is good and right and these are objective because they derive directly from the will of God himself. Moreover, there is a vital role for laws and rules that reflect God's morality,' he said.

'If we are going to improve the moral well-being of society, we need to bring belief back from the sidelines to the centre stage.

'If people do not believe in God, why should they obey his commandments? Without the love of God and neighbour, I fear laws and rules will fail.'