U.K. evangelicals split over Williams

Published November 1, 2002



Leading evangelicals in Britain are rushing to staunch the tide of criticism leveled at incoming archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams by their own associates, who have questioned his position on sexual morality and demanded he renounce his views or decline the position.

Archbishop Williams, who becomes the next archbishop of Canterbury this month on the retirement of George Carey, has refused to decline his appointment in response to conservatives who have told him he must denounce sex outside marriage and affirm the need for discipline for those who disobey, including those who seek ordination.

In a letter to the Church of England Newspaper, other evangelicals have told the archbishop?s adversaries to stand down in their attacks, condemning their behaviour as ?morally unacceptable? and ?unbiblical.?

?The precedent this would set is ecclesiologically and morally unacceptable,? they wrote. They also condemned the tactic of exerting pressure by public confrontation ?rather than by private persuasion.?

The pressure groups Reform Council and Church Society had raised the prospect of splitting the Church of England over Archbishop Williams? appointment. They threatened to refuse to acknowledge him if he becomes archbishop of Canterbury because of his refusal to change his personal views.

The archbishop has acknowledged ordaining an openly gay candidate for the priesthood and questioned whether celibacy should be an absolute requirement for gay and lesbian clergy.

?My very conviction that this (sexual morality) should not be a defining issue makes it impossible for me to respond as you would want, in all conscience,? Archbishop Williams wrote to Rev. David Banting, chair of Reform.

Archbishop Williams had earlier promised the group that he would not push his personal agenda, but the council decided to draw up its ultimatum nonetheless.

Archbishop Williams added that his personal views were on record ?and I have not found reason to change them.?


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