Archbishop questions traditional interpretation of homosexuality
The Archbishop of Canterbury has sanctioned the reissuing of a six-year-old essay that challenges traditional biblical interpretations of homosexuality, and opens up the option of faithful gay relationships reports the Times.
Evangelicals reportedly have given a warning that schism now seemed inevitable, in view of Dr Williamsís commentary on key biblical texts.
Dr Williams was asked in February by the publishers SCM-Canterbury Press if he wished to make any amendments to his essay, first published in 1997 in the run-up to the Lambeth Conference the next year. He gave his assent for publication that same month, when the sexuality debate was reaching its height in Canada and America, although before the abortive selection of Dr Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading.
He argues that there is more to homosexuality than Romans 1, the passage often cited by evangelicals where St Paul addresses the ëunseemlyí passions of men with men.
Dr Williams goes on to set out a possible case for active same-sex relationships by arguing that revisionists who support ësexual expressioní for homosexuals may, like evangelicals, be trying to be faithful to the Bible.
His arguments, couched in careful theology, reportedly express his support for committed gay partnerships and his belief that the Churchís traditional ban on homosexual activity should not apply to those in faithful gay relationships.
The book of essays, "The Way Forward", will be published at the end of this month.
Dr Williams says that if the Romans passage is to be read as being about the phenomena of homosexual behaviour in general, as it is by many evangelicals, then îhomosexual desire is not only intrinsically disordered, but intrinsically rapacious in a way that other kinds of desire are notî.
By contrast, many Christian homosexuals want to live in obedience to God and îstruggle against the many inducements to live in promiscuous rapacity - not without costî.
Dr Williams speculates that such a homosexual would say: ìIt is hard to hear good news from the Church if it insists that my condition is in itself spiritually compromised.î
He says: ìIf the Church is to give constant encouragement in following Christ, even to those who do not settle for either celibacy or marriage because of their orientation, can it really and honestly do so without at least admitting that an account of homosexual identity dominated by Romans 1 cannot be the whole story?"
He also says: "Of course lives may be and some lives apparently must be lived without sexual expression in the usual sense of the term. But if you do not accept that homosexual desire is itself a mark of disorder, can you confidently say that the presence of this desire must always be a sign that sexual expression is ruled out?"
Dr Williams's essay will undoubtedly be raised when the 38 primates of the Anglican Communion meet in London in October. They are expected to demand some kind of censure against the American Church or the diocese of New Hampshire, which elected Canon Gene Robinson.