LONDON (AP) -- Keeping pressure on the new archbishop of Canterbury, several evangelical groups in the Church of England have issued a statement contending that sexual ethics should be a ''first order'' concern of the church.
The statement did not refer by name or title to Rowan Williams, who took office earlier this month as head of the Church of England. But many conservatives have been alarmed that Williams knowingly ordained a practicing homosexual while he was a bishop in Wales.
''The church has tried to teach sensitively the biblical norm of lifelong heterosexual marriage and abstinence outside it, not just for its own members but out of concern for the health, moral life, well-being and character of the whole community,'' said the statement, released Dec. 10.
It was signed by leaders of Reform and the Church Society, which have been critical of Williams' appointment. Other signers included the Anglican primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, and U.S. Episcopal bishops John Howe of Central Florida and James Stanton of Dallas.
Williams abstained when a 1998 international conference of Anglican bishops strongly endorsed a resolution that active gay relationships are ''incompatible with Scripture.''
That resolution, he said, ''says what the mind of the church is. I feel, in my public position, that I am bound to live with that.''
However, Williams indicated recently his personal position had not changed.
''I think the question is worth asking,'' whether the Bible is properly interpreted as opposing all homosexual behavior, he said in an interview with Church Times, a weekly newspaper.
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