In what has been branded a shocking betrayal for gay and lesbian Anglicans, incumbent Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has backed church doctrine that condemns homosexual relationships.

Williams, who next month replaces George Carey as the leader of the world’s 70 million Anglicans, has generated significant debate within the Anglican Church in recent years over his trademark liberal attitude towards the ordination of openly homosexual clergy.

However, last week Williams issued a letter to all 38 international primates of the Anglican Church that voiced his accord with the 1998 Lambeth Resolution.

[The Resolution] declares clearly what is the mind of the overwhelming majority in the Communion and what the Communion will or will not approve to authorise, Will-iams said in the letter.

I accept that any individual diocese or even province that officially overturns this resolution poses a substantial problem for the sacramental unity of the Communion.

The statement marks a dramatic philosophical turn-around for Williams and is believed to be pointed directly at a number of Canadian dioceses that have allowed priests to perform commitment ceremonies for gay couples this year.

London-based rights group the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GLHA) hit out at Williams to Gay.com this week, accusing him of throwing his hat in with bigots and describing his letter as a shocking betrayal for gay and lesbian Anglicans.

This has an impact way beyond the confines of the Church. It is something that affects all gay people, whether they consider themselves Christian or not, GLHA secretary George Broadhead said.

In every case [religious groups] are trying to have themselves exempted from anti-discrimination legislation so that they can continue to discriminate against gay people.

It is understood that earlier this year the British government received a number of letters from evangelical conservatives around the world condemning the potential appointment of Williams due to the archbishop’s rationale that since the Church of England already permits responsible homosexual relations amongst its laity, it is unreasonable not to allow practising homosexuals to be members of the Anglican clergy.

Williams had also raised the ire of conservatives due to his proclamations that women -“ who have already been granted the right to be ordained by the Anglican Church -“ should therefore also be permitted to be ordained as bishops.

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