Anglicans close door on blessings for gay couples
The leaders of the worldwide Anglican communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, appear to have closed the door on church blessing services for gay couples.
The move follows the news that, according to a new biography, Dr Rowan Williams believes that faithful gay partnerships should be accepted.
The new statement, made by the archbishops of the 38 provinces of the 70 million-strong communion after a meeting at Gramado in southern Brazil, seems intended to paper over chasms developing between developing world bishops, who continue to view homosexuality as a sin, and more liberal leaders of the US and Canadian episcopal church who have been considering conducting services of blessing for gay relationships.
In endorsing the statement Dr Williams, who has come under heavy criticism, including hate mail, from some more fundamentalist evangelicals for his tolerant views on homosexuality since his appointment last year, publicly aligned himself with the main body of church belief.
Although the archbishop has made no secret of his personal views - on one occasion admitting to have ordained a priest knowing him to be in a homosexual relationship - he has also repeatedly made clear that he will abide by the church's position in his official capacity.
After the Archbishopís appointment was announced last summer, he wrote to his fellow primates in the Anglican Church worldwide, promising to abide by the 1998 Lambeth Conference resolution upholding traditional teaching on the issue.
In the new joint statement, the archbishops said: "The question of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said it is through liturgy that we express what we believe and that there is no theological consensus for same-sex unions. Therefore we as a body cannot support the authority of such rites."
A report discussed by the archbishops at the weekend claimed there would be division if gay ceremonies were permitted, with the Archbishop of the West Indies, Drexel Gomez, calling for bishops who defied the policy to be thrown out of the church.