Church alliance warns Williams over gays

The Telegraph (England), Dec. 11, 2002
By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

A group reflecting the views of up to a third of the Church of England issued a veiled warning to the Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday to promote traditional sexual ethics or risk losing his authority.

Dr took up the post last week, has already been challenged by conservative evangelicals to recant his liberal views on homosexuality or resign.

Now the All Souls Day Group, a much broader coalition formed by a number of influential bodies, has extended the battlelines and declared war on what it sees as a tide of liberalism threatening to swamp the worldwide Church.

In a statement, the group called on all Anglican Church leaders to back the 1998 Lambeth conference, which condemned sexual activity outside marriage.

Although it avoided direct reference to Dr Williams, it is the latest shot across the bows of the archbishop, whom many suspect will import a liberal agenda.

It said that Church leaders derived their authority from their faithfulness to the “divinely inspired” Scriptures, not from being “charismatic celebrities”.

The Church’s powerful evangelical wing is furious that dioceses in the United States and Canada are going ahead with the blessing of homosexual unions.

It is also dismayed that Dr Williams has admitted ordaining a practising homosexual, although he has now promised to stand by the Lambeth conference decision.

The statement was signed by just one senior bishop, the Rt Rev Graham Dow of Carlisle, but organisers claimed the private support of another 25 who feared that public approval would be seen as a revolt against Dr Williams.

The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev Peter Forster, said in a message to the group that he fully endorsed the statement but “signing it would be seen as a political act in opposition to Rowan Williams”.

Pressure has been mounting on Dr Williams since the Church Society and Reform both distanced themselves from him, and Dr George Carey, the retiring archbishop, urged his colleagues to maintain their hard-line stance.

Bishop Forster has already written privately to Dr Williams, as has the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull, with the support of 12 senior colleagues.

Among the signatories to the new statement is Viscount Brentford, the president of the Church Society, whose wife was a member of the Crown Appointments Commission which chose Dr Williams.

Other supporters include the suffragan Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Rev Wallace Benn, several prominent academics and and bishops from abroad, including the Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola.

The statement said that if the “norms of marital faithfulness” were not upheld “social cohesion and a sense of belonging begins to unravel, with consequential threats to individual happiness, children, health, community harmony and social well-being”.

Leaders of the group, whose members include the Church Society, Reform, the Church of England Evangelical Council and the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, said yesterday that they were anxious for evangelicals to stay united.

They appealed for many more to sign the statement, a copy of which was handed to Dr Williams last week, but they declined to speculate about their future actions.

Lambeth Palace said Dr Williams had “noted the contents but did not propose to add to the debate at the present time”.

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)