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Australia's church leaders' views on sexuality ignite controversy

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    CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE From the Episcopal News Service ... May 22, 2001 Australia s church leaders views on sexuality ignite controversy by Margaret
    Message 1 of 1 , May 22, 2001
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      CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE

      From the Episcopal News Service
      ------------

      May 22, 2001
      Australia's church leaders' views on sexuality ignite controversy
      by Margaret Simons


      (ENI) As the Anglican Church of Australia prepares for its
      general synod in July, major divisions have appeared following an
      archbishop's request that the church bless lifelong homosexual
      "friendships."

      The Primate of the Church in Australia, Dr. Peter Carnley, has
      suggested the church should bless such unions and concentrate on the
      spiritual quality of the friendship without inquiring into intimate
      physical matters.

      In a paper prepared for the synod, Carnley, a progressive
      theologian who is also Archbishop of Perth, capital of the state of
      Western Australia, said that friendship was "essential for providing
      an appropriate and supportive context for working out the details of
      a life of moral goodness. The church's calling is to foster such
      friendships."

      He said that for the church to "specify limits of [physical]
      touch" would be as inappropriate for a relationship between people of
      the same gender it would be in heterosexual marriage. "Does the
      church become involved in this, or is to do so merely an expression
      of the modern obsession with sex, an example of the voyeurism endemic
      in the modern world imported into the ecclesiastical environment?"
      Carnley's paper asks.


      Following publication of an edited excerpt of his paper in the
      Bulletin, a national news magazine, two senior members of the Sydney
      diocese, both possible candidates for the position of archbishop of
      Sydney, Australia's biggest city, strongly criticized the primate's
      views. Robert Forsyth, bishop of South Sydney, told the Sydney
      Morning Herald that "any suggestion that the Anglican Church
      should bless a sexual relationship that is not fully marriage of a
      man and a woman is not possible if we are to remain faithful to Lord
      Jesus Christ and the Scriptures."

      "If it means the Christian faith has nothing to say about what
      you do in your bedroom --about sexual behavior--he must be kidding.
      Sexual behavior is a crucial part of human behavior. The Christian
      faith has crucial things to say about work, how we earn money, how we
      treat other people and our sex lives."

      Canon Dr. Peter Jensen, principal of Moore Theological College
      and another contender for the position of archbishop of Sydney, said
      that if Carnley "is suggesting this [blessing a committed homosexual
      union] is a good thing for us to do, he has gone beyond the border."

      Carnley argued in his paper that the Bible had little or nothing
      to say about homosexual behavior. The "handful" of injunctions were
      aimed primarily at promiscuity. "Where the Bible is itself silent,
      the church may be wise to hesitate to speak," he said.

      At the same time the value of friendship should be nurtured by
      the church as an expression of love and commitment, he said. The idea
      of "best friends" was common both to marriage, and to some same-sex
      relationships.

      Carnley rejected the term "marriage" for homosexual unions,
      saying that marriage had as one of its chief purposes procreation and
      nurture of children. But he argued that the church should support
      legal recognition and "next of kin" status for homosexual partners,
      and consider blessing commitments intended to be monogamous and
      lifelong. Homosexual relationships are not recognized by the
      Australian government.

      Carnley mentioned in support of his case the depth of the
      relationship between David and Jonathan in I Samuel 18:3--"Then
      Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own
      soul."

      Carnley commented: "There is certainly no sense in which this
      same-gender relationship is denigrated in the biblical text. Indeed
      it is celebrated. David's love for Jonathan is said to have been
      'wonderful, even greater than that of a woman'." Carnley also spoke
      of the relationship between Ruth and Naomi, recorded in the Book of
      Ruth, as another "exemplary same-gender relationship."

      His paper is almost certain to lead to heated discussion at the
      general synod. Although attracting strong criticism from
      conservatives, it has support from members of the doctrinal panel
      preparing the discussion papers for the synod.

      However, one Roman Catholic source commented on Carnley's paper,
      saying that a softer church stance towards same-sex relationships
      would be at odds with mainstream Christianity.

      At the same time the newly installed Roman Catholic archbishop
      of Sydney, Dr. George Pell, known as a conservative on doctrinal
      issues, has prompted national debate with his attitudes to sexuality.
      Homosexual groups in Sydney, which has Australia's biggest gay
      community, have protested at Pell's public appearances, but he has
      received mass expressions of support from Roman Catholics.

      Pell, who holds the most powerful position in the Roman Catholic
      Church in Australia, has also been praised by Prime Minister John
      Howard, who said on national radio that the archbishop was a man who
      stood up for his beliefs.

      "I admire that in a man," Howard said.

      Last week Pell conceded on national television that there might
      be "small pockets" of homosexuality among Roman Catholic priests in
      Melbourne, where George Pell previously held the post of archbishop.
      He added that he had spoken to some priests about it.

      Asked whether there were homosexual priests in Sydney, Pell
      said: "Oh please God, no. Please God, no."

      Pell, who in Melbourne ordered that people wearing gay symbols
      should not be given holy communion in his cathedral, emphasized that
      he bore homosexual people no ill will. "I wish them God's peace," he
      said, but added that the church's teachings on sexuality were
      essential to the support of marriage and families.


      --This story is based on an article by Ecumenical News International.


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