As a divided Anglican Communion nears a worldwide leaders gathering, the former head of the global denomination says they should not "demonize one another."
Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey told Duke University in an interview that the Episcopal Church broke from a 1998 resolution that all bishops in the Communion had agreed to when the U.S. body ordained an openly gay bishop. Nevertheless, Carey emphasized that "there are good, noble people on both sides of the argument."
Carey, who served as archbishop for over 11 years, had presided over the 1998 Lambeth Conference where bishops from Anglican provinces worldwide approved Lambeth Resolution 1.10. Among the resolution's seven points, two of them states that in view of the teaching of Scripture, the Communion:
1. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex;
2. cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions
"That was overwhelmingly accepted," Carey, who opposes blessing homosexual relationships, said in the interview regarding the Lambeth Resolution.
"But then, of course, in 2003, the American church, The Episcopal Church of the United States, decided to break from the position and so Gene Robinson was ordained bishop," he noted. "That's been the heart of the issue ever since."
The Church of Nigeria recently pointed back to the 1998 resolution as Nigerian bishop Peter Akinola called the Episcopal Church to repent of its rejecting what the entire global body had agreed to. Akinola warned that unless the homosexual issue is resolved, the Church of Nigeria will go separate ways from the Communion and hold its own 2008 Lambeth Conference, which is held every 10 years.
Prior to Akinola's warning, the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams, said he fears schism and believes it would drive people "into recrimination and bitterness." Williams will be chairing the upcoming make-or-break Primates meeting in Tanzania with the heads of 38 provinces representing the 77 million-member Communion. Three other U.S. bishops, other than Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church, have also been invited and will present their different theological stances during a recess.
As the Anglican leaders set out to resolve the divisions, particularly over the issue of homosexuality, Carey said he agrees that "anyone" can be ordained, but he stressed what Scripture and the Christian tradition requires of bishops - those seeking ordination have to be either single, celibate men or a married priesthood.
"You can't have a third order coming in,” Carey said.
"The ordination of practicing homosexuals throws up enormous challenges sacramentally about marriage, about [clerical] orders, about ordination itself. These are not easy issues to deal with."
Still, the former head stated that the Anglicans on opposing sides "should not demonize one another."
The Primates meeting is scheduled for Feb. 14-19.