Dr George Carey lectures in Pennsylvania

The Church Times

The Archbishop of Canterbury was reportedly given a rapturous reception in the United States, when he spelled out his views on sexuality at the 25th-anniversary celebrations of Trinity Episcopal School of Ministry, in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.

In a lecture given on Friday 3 May 2002 to more than 300 seminarians, faculty, alumni, friends and clergy, Carey spoke on five characteristics of Christian leadership, drawn from his study of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. “It is clear from his [Paul’s] correspondence with that difficult and exasperating’ church that it was in many ways a body of believers not unlike us today,” Dr Carey commented. He repeated his warnings against allowing political and cultural relativism to seep into moral judgements, and said that the Church did not have to reinvent the wheel on the issue of sexuality.

The third characteristic of Christian leadership, and one that drew the most applause, was holiness. Christian leaders are to be “unashamedly holy men and women,” Dr Carey announced. Although holiness is not limited to sexual morality, that is where the church feels the conflict now, he said. The Bible teaches that “intimate sexual acts should be expressed in the committed relationship of husband and wife. All other forms of sexual behaviour are deviations from that norm. “I have made clear, firmly but, I hope, charitably, that this is my approach to homosexual relationships. I also see it as the right moral setting for considering heterosexual relationships, where there can be a profound impact in the essential stability of family life and the environment for raising our children,” he said.

But being clear about what is right and wrong does not mean slamming the door on those who are not ready to accept church teachings, Carey added. “If I as an individual or the Church as a body is compelled to say ‘no’ to some practices, we can still establish strong links of understanding, friendship and care for those whose lifestyles are different from ours,” he said. So it is not a contradiction for a leader to have the highest principles for herself or himself, and yet have the most generous and compassionate understanding of others. “What we are required to do is follow the teaching of scripture and the discipline of the Church.”

He went on to talk about the sexual abuse of children, a “tragedy both fresh and raw in the United States”. No part of the world or the Church could fail to learn the lessons, he said. Nevertheless, he said, “our understanding of the nature of human sexuality may always remain troubled and incomplete.” For this reason, he said: “I don’t believe in shutting doors on anyone, because I believe the gospel includes all people. There had to be “boundaries to pastoral care which result in pastoral discipline, just as there are boundaries to doctrinal orthodoxy”.

Other news about the sexual abuse of children and paedophilia in Kenya

* Gay Kenyans ask questions about paedophilia in African culture, 4 May 2002

* Dr George Carey lectures in Pennsylvania, 10 May 2002

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