Anglican church rules on gay couples

Australia's Anglican Church has said it cannot condone church blessings for gay relationships or the ordination of homosexuals, following a debate at its General Synod.

Delegates at the synod meeting in Fremantle agreed to motions put forward by the church's hierarchy stating they did not condone liturgical blessings for same-sex couples or the ordination of people in same-sex relationships.

The meeting also agreed to back federal parliament's decree earlier this year that marriage, at law, was the exclusive union of a man and a woman.

Debating one of the most divisive issues facing the Anglican faith in Australia and across the world, contributors to the argument spoke of their fears about the effect the church's stance would have on gay people in the wider community.

Canberra and Goulburn Rector Jill Varcoe said her family and friends had been subjected to violence because of their homosexuality, and the church should beware of making negative judgements.

"The problem is that every time powerful people make a negative statement about gays and lesbians, that level of violence increases," Ms Varcoe said.

"If we pass motions of this kind we become complicit in violence done to gays and lesbians, and I cannot therefore vote for them."

But Sydney diocese member Sandy Grant, a rector in the parish of Kurrajong, said it must be made clear the church would not give their blessing to gay couples.

"We must say it gently and with compassion, but we must not condone any liturgical blessing of homosexual partnerships in disregard of the plain teaching of Jesus," Mr Grant said.

"To deliberately hallow such God-forbidden relationships is to approve sin."

In his opening address on Saturday, Anglican Primate Peter Carnley said Anglican followers should adjust their attitudes towards homosexuals to think of gay relationships as "friendships".

But as in Tuesday's motion suggesting women be allowed to become bishops, which was narrowly defeated, the distinct division between progressive and conservative factions within the church became evident.

Adelaide Archdeacon Cathy Thompson asked the synod if it was clear the bible said homosexuality was forbidden and sinful.

"We do not know how homosexuality originates. We do not know if the source of homosexuality is biological, genetic or psychological," she said.

"Because we do not know that, we cannot assume it is wrong for someone to pursue their own homosexual nature."

The synod is also due to debate a motion calling for the Australian church to distance itself from the Canadian arm of the faith, which has sanctioned the blessing of same-sex unions, and the American faith, which last year allowed the ordination of a gay bishop.

Sydney rector Bruce Ballantine-Jones will also move a motion that the Australian synod agrees with the statement expressed following the 1998 conference of bishops in Lambeth, which decided homosexual practise was inconsistent with Scripture.