London (CNSNews.com) - The leader of the Anglican Church has expressed "sadness and disquiet" at the decision by a Canadian diocese to bless same-sex unions.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said the move by the New Westminster diocese, which includes Vancouver, would cause splits within the church.
"The diocese has gone significantly further than the teaching of the church," he said. "I very much regret the inevitable tension and division that will result from this development."
With the blessing of Bishop Michael Ingham, the diocese performed its first same-sex blessing Wednesday despite criticism by a group of Canadian bishops. Several parishes within the diocese have also objected, noting that the primates, or leaders of national branches of the Anglican Church, just this week rejected blessing the unions of homosexual couples.
Ingham gave the go-ahead for such ceremonies last week, and on Wednesday, a priest blessed the union of Michael Kalmuk and Kelly Montfort at St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage Church in Vancouver, reports said. In a memo, Ingham stated that the rite was "not a marriage ceremony, a blessing of permanent and faithful commitments."
But Williams said the meeting of the primates in Brazil had made the issue clear.
"There is nothing approaching a consensus in support of same-sex unions," he said in a statement released Thursday.
A spokesman for the archbishop said Friday that Williams was still studying the case and that sanctions or other action against New Westminster had not been ruled out. The spokesman said it was "far too early to say" what might result from the incident.
The archbishop courted controversy when he was appointed last year because of his liberal views on homosexuality.
While serving as a bishop, Williams admitted ordaining a man he knew to be a homosexual.
Evangelical groups protested his appointment, but Williams promised to set aside his personal beliefs and stick to a decision made at the 1998 Lambeth Conference that ruled out homosexual unions and ordination of homosexuals.
In a biography serialized by the Times of London this week and authorized by the archbishop, Williams expressed sympathy towards homosexual couples and said he believes the church will eventually change its mind on the issue of same-sex unions.
However, he has pledged to uphold the traditional teachings for the sake of unity.
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