Not Gay, Just Friends: Anglican Leader

by Peter Shadbolt

With his church in danger of fracturing over same-sex unions, the head of the Anglican Church in Australia, Peter Carnley, is urging followers to adjust their attitudes to homosexuality and think of gay relationships as merely “friendship”.

In a bid to chart a perilous course between Anglican progressives and conservatives, Dr Carnley opened over the weekend what could prove to be one of the most divisive general synods in the history of the Australian church.

“Same sex relationships are best spoken of by using the category of friendship, which does not so much as raise an implication, let alone the logical necessity and thus the expectation, of sexual activity,” Dr Carnley told the general synod in Fremantle on Saturday.

“Also, as Christians, we should not allow ourselves to be browbeaten by the permissive society into the view that chastity and abstinence from sexual activity is an entirely unrealistic impossibility among adults.”

The three-yearly meeting will consider the ordination of gay people and the blessing of same-sex unions, issues, which threaten to further divide the Anglican Church.

The synod is due to consider several anti-gay resolutions, condemning the ordination of gay people and the blessing of same-sex unions by the church and reaffirming the church’s stand that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

Progressive lay representative Muriel Porter said the issue was set to be more divisive than women bishops, which is due to be decided at the general synod this week.

“The issue of gay clergy and same-sex unions is one and the same thing,” Dr Porter said yesterday. “And when the rubber hits the road, if we get same-sex marriage then we’re going to get the ordination of open gays.

“In the 15th century the church recognised that celibacy was unrealistic and that an ongoing, faithful and committed relationship blessed by God was the way to go. I believe that gay people in the church, in the same position, should be honoured in the same way.

“Otherwise we are condemning gay people in the church to a life of celibacy or the promiscuity of the gay bar.”

Conservatives in the Anglican church – led mostly by evangelical Anglicans from Sydney – will likely carry resolutions at the general synod which, while recognising that same-sex unions and gay clergy was still a topic of debate in the church, would reject any new development.

“It is the church’s place to enquire into people who go against God’s word,” said the Bishop of North Sydney Glenn Davies.

“If you steal, and it’s in secret, it’s still wrong.”

Dr Carnley said that rather than narrowing the definition of what constituted a relationship, the church should be opening up the categories – including the idea that same-sex and even heterosexual relationships could be celibate.

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