Correspondence between an evangelical Christian and Rowan Williams has been uncovered which reveals his support for gay marriage.
The letters were written in 2000 and 2001, when Dr Williams was the Archbishop of Wales, and confirm his liberal stance on homosexuality.
He stated in his correspondence with Deborah Pitt, an evangelical who lived in his then-Archdiocese, that parts of the Bible relating to homosexual acts are not aimed at people who are born gay but “heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience.”
“I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness,” read one letter, quoted in The Times.
Archbishop Williams quoted the theologian Jeffrey John to back his position.
In 2003 Dr John was asked to stand down from his appointment as Bishop of Reading by Dr Williams, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, after conservative Anglicans objected to the fact that he was in a gay relationship.
Under House of Bishops guidelines, clerics are allowed to enter into a civil partnership as long as they are not engaging in sexual relations.
Lambeth Palace, when asked for a comment on the letters to Ms Pitt, quoted a recent interview in which the Archbishop said:
“When I teach as a bishop I teach what the Church teaches. In controverted areas it is my responsibility to teach what the Church has said and why.”
The ordination of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as Bishop of New Hampshire, was the catalyst for the ongoing crisis in the Anglican communion over gay issues.
At an event in Edinburgh last night Bishop Robinson said he felt personally “disrespected” by the way the Archbishop of Canterbury ignored his letters and banished him from a meeting of Anglican leaders.
“He is no longer the Rowan we once knew. I don’t know how he sleeps at night,” said Bishop Robinson.
At the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference last week Dr Williams said the “pieces are on the board” for a settlement.
The conference, held once every ten years, is a meeting of the leaders of the Church from around the world.
This year more than 200 bishops boycotted the event.
He also called on American churches not to elect any more gay bishops.
In a sermon on the final day of the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, Dr Williams said: “In these days together we have not overcome our problems or reinvented our structures: that will still take time.”
But despite there still being “many questions” on the issue, a Covenant to bind the Communion together is needed, he said: “We may not have put an end to all our problems – but the pieces are on the board.”
The Covenant could mean churches with new gay bishops could be expelled from the Anglican Communion.
In a reference to the bishops who refused to attend the Conference Dr Williams said: “In the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages.”
He added that the Communion must not just be “an association of polite friends,” rather, it must “embrace deeper and more solid ways of recognising and trusting each other.”