Tensions within the worldwide Anglican Church heightened this week with a debate on homosexuality during the National Evangelical Anglican Congress, in which support for gay clergy was described as paganism.

Theology teacher Gordon Wenham said support of homosexuality was simply an example of ancient paganism, The Guardian reported. In the lead-up to the Blackpool Congress, Newcastle vicar David Holloway likened gay rights people to concentration camp commanders, adding that modern Jezebels have to be disciplined, The Guardian reported.

However, the backlash has brought several supporters of gay parishioners and clergy to speak out. Last week the archbishop of Wales warned Anglicans against a simplistic reading of the Bible. The church has done no more than Jesus did in his own day by ignoring parts of the Old Testament that required lepers, prostitutes, gentiles, sinners and others regarded as unclean to be excluded from God’s presence, ICWales News Service reported. At the Congress this week, the archbishop of York David Hope told the evangelicals to listen to other Anglicans’ views. He said we have become altogether too busy and too noisy on the issue, The Guardian reported.

Despite such calls for unity and support, conservatives sent a letter of solidarity to US and Canadian congregations during the Congress, offering prayers in the face of attacks on so many areas of our shared biblical faith. The letter was addressed to US evangelicals who had objected to the recent appointment of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson and the blessing of gay unions in a Canadian Anglican diocese.

This week also saw the leaking of a draft church paper partly condemning homosexuality. A draft of Some Issues In Human Sexuality: A Contribution To The Debate was revealed to the UK Guardian last week.

The paper noted that gay and lesbian people are a valuable part of God’s creation but also said the fundamental objection to homosexuality in the biblical writings seems to be precisely that it is contrary to nature in the sense that it crosses the boundaries of appropriate sexual behaviour established by God at creation, the Guardian reported.

Church leaders have refused to comment on the draft paper prior to the emergency meeting of church primates to be held in October. The meeting was organised by the archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams to discuss issues of homosexuality and avoid a church schism.

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