Anglican leaders need to correct the wrongful impression that the Church rejects gay and lesbian people, the Archbishop of Wales said yesterday.
Dr Barry Morgan said it would “take time” to resolve deep theological divisions over human sexuality, particularly same-sex partnerships, in an interview with the Western Mail on his return from the Lambeth Conference
The issue has threatened a schism in the Anglican communion and dominated last week’s conference in Canterbury, the meeting of bishops from around the globe held once every ten years.
Some churches in North America have carried out blessings for same-sex couples, a development that led some conservatives, mainly from Africa, to boycott Lambeth in protest.
Calling for a reconciliation, Dr Morgan said: “For people who are gay and lesbian, we can give the impression that we are more harsh in our dealings with them than with any other group of people.
“That must impair our mission, and leave them feeling rejected.
“It’s all going to take time. My hope is that people will realise that on these moral issues, as on many moral issues, there is no one Anglican solution.
“On marriage and divorce, there are those who believe that there ought not to be re-marriage of divorced people in church; others believe that ought to be possible.
“There is a willingness there to live and let live in a way there doesn’t seem to be over the issue of same-sex relationships.
“In 1972 the American Institute of Psychiatry still believed it [homosexuality] was a mental illness.
“In 1967 it was still forbidden by law in the this country, and there are African countries where homosexuality is a crime. We all come from different backgrounds and scriptural understanding.
“My hope is that people will realise that the other point of view is a possible viewpoint, and we therefore we can co-exist.”
On the final day of the conference, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams addressed the audience, calling on North American churches to abide by agreements not to consecrate gay bishops or carry out blessings on same-sex couples.
He wants to see an agreement, or “covenant,” agreed for the long term, which would involve setting down the basic principles of Anglicanism and agreeing to be bound by them.
Dr Williams said it was often assumed that the blessing of same-sex marriages or the ordination of gay bishops was simply a human rights issue.
“That’s an assumption I can’t accept because I think the issue about what conditions a church lays down for a blessing have to be shaped by its own thinking and its own praying.”
Before the Lambeth Conference a “breakaway meeting” took place in Jerusalem, the Global Anglican Future Conference. Many of the bishops who attended that gathering chose to boycott Lambeth.
The division in the Church was widened in 2003 by the consecration of openly gay Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire in the US. He was not invited to Lambeth by Dr Williams because of the controversy over his appointment.
The Archbishop of Canterbury intends to convene a meeting of primates as early as possible next year for further discussions.
Last month Dr Morgan said that fundamentalists are damaging the Anglican community.
“There used to be a generosity of spirit and diversity in the Anglican Communion,” he said.
“There should be a backlash against this fundamentalism that has been thrust upon us.
“It is contrary to the ministry of Jesus and damaging that in the Church, we’re still fighting battles that have already been won in society.”