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Williams backs celibate gay bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he has "no problem" with gay people being bishops as long as they remain celibate.

Dr Rowan Williams signalled his personal support for the consecration of gay bishops in the Church of England.

But he said he would never endorse bishops in active homosexual relationships because of tradition and historical "standards" that require gay clergy to remain celibate.

His comments, made in an interview with The Times, sparked accusations from equality campaigners that he was putting Church unity above the rights of gay and lesbian people.

He also risks deepening divisions within the Church of England and the wider Anglican communion.

Liberals are likely to be angered by the Archbishop's insistence that celibacy must be compulsory for homosexual clergy but not for heterosexuals, while Conservatives would argue his stance puts him at odds with Church teaching.

Dr Williams also revealed he will retire before his full term as Archbishop ends in 10 years, saying: "I will not be doing this job when I'm 70."

He said that he had been "conscious" of the issue of homosexuality as "a wound in the whole ministry" since his appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury in 2002.

But he said he had to decide against endorsing gay relationships for clergy and bishops because "the cost to the Church overall was too great to be borne at that point".

He said: "To put it very simply, there's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe. So there's always a question about the personal life of the clergy."

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