A group of Australian Anglican leaders has written an open letter to former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, accusing him of disloyalty to the church because of his public stance against gay clergy.

About 120 Australian and New Zealand supporters of current archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams signed the letter, which accused Carey of undermining Williams’s attempts to unite the church over the issue of homosexual bishops.

The open letter was initiated by Reverend Dr David Wood, a parish priest and university chaplain in Perth. It was signed by clergy and lay people across Australia -“ though not the Sydney diocese -“ as well as bishops in the UK and US.

Wood told Sydney Star Observer he didn’t have a problem with gay bishops in the church. But whether or not you think it’s a problem, I don’t think it’s a problem that should split the church, he said.

He said that on the whole the 140 people who signed the letter supported gay clergy, though there are probably all shades of view on the issue.

But I would think everybody is united in thinking George Carey should keep off this, that it’s actually none of his business any more.

The letter came after Carey angered liberal Anglicans when he travelled to the US to conduct confirmations of 300 church members opposed to homosexuality, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The US evangelicals he confirmed do not accept their own bishops who supported the election of an openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Unlike Carey, Williams has been seen as taking an inclusive stance on the controversial issue.

The letter accused Carey of attempting to set himself up as an alternative leader to Williams.

Your actions in retirement are -¦ discourteous to Archbishop Rowan Williams as he attempts to hold together the Anglican Communion at a particularly difficult time, the letter to Carey read.

Carey has since spoken out about the letter, saying the authors seem intent on creating division where there is none and pledging his support for Williams.

Wood predicted the issue of gay clergy would come to a head when the Episcopal church in the US has its general convention in June. That will no doubt push things a bit one way or the other, he said.

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