The leaders of the worldwide Anglican church meeting in Brazil this week again rejected calls for the church to recognise same-sex marriages.

The pastoral statement issued by the bishops at the end of their meeting affirmed the duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations, but rejected gay marriages as too divisive.

The question of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same-sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites, the bishops said.

The statement is in striking contrast to the private views of the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as revealed in a new biography. Written by a former pupil of the archbishop, Rupert Shortt, Rowan Williams: An Introduction has been approved by Williams.

According to excerpts published by several London newspapers Williams believes that the church should change its views on homosexuality just as it has changed its views on other issues such as divorce.

His private view remains that an adjustment of teaching on sexuality would not be different from the kind of flexibility now being shown to divorcees who wish to remarry, or the softening in the 16th century of the Church’s once total opposition to borrowing with interest, or the 19th and 20th century shifts of view on subjects like slavery and eternal hellfire, Shortt writes.

Although Williams has made a number of statements in the past supportive of faithful homosexual relationships it is believed that he was convinced to support the unanimous statement of the Brazil meeting in order to uphold the unity of the church. In doing this he brought other liberal church leaders with him.

The issue of the blessing of same-sex unions has been a particularly divisive one since the bishop of New Westminster in Canada, Michael Ingham, and several bishops in North America have indicated that they plan to go ahead with the blessing of same-sex unions.

This has led to a split in Ingham’s diocese and the offer by conservative Anglican bishops such as Sydney’s Phillip Jensen to step in and give pastoral care to the dissenting wing of the Canadian diocese.

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