Williams allegedly affirmed his liberal position on homosexuality in a leaked exchange of letters between 2000 and 2001 with Deborah Pitt, an evangelical living in his former archdiocese in south Wales.
According to media reports, Williams asserts in the letters his belief that parts of the Bible relating to homosexuality were addressed “to heterosexuals looking for sexual variety in their experience” rather than gay people in a relationship.
“I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness,” one letter was quoted as saying.
As a theologian, Williams is liberal on the issue of homosexuality but adopts a more conservative position as leader of the Anglican Communion, which officially regards homosexuality as incompatible with Scripture.
The archbishop’s comments come just days after the conclusion of the once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference, which reaffirmed the Anglican Communion’s official line on homosexuality.
Bishops at the conference, which ended on Sunday, called for an immediate halt to same-sex consecrations and blessings, and the suspension of cross-border interventions.
Williams said at the end of the conference that the Anglican Communion would be in “grave peril” if member churches failed to observe the moratorium.
The 77-million member Anglican Communion has been wracked with division, particularly since the 2003 consecration of openly gay bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. More than 200 conservative bishops boycotted the Lambeth Conference in protest of the presence of pro-gay bishops, including some of those involved in the consecration of Robinson. They held their own meeting, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), in Jerusalem in June.
In his strongest public acknowledgement of GAFCON to date, Williams had said he would look for ways to “build bridges” with bishops in the movement, who include Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi, Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, and a number of UK bishops, including the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt. Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.
Williams said he would send out a pastoral letter to each of the GAFCON bishops as a first step, but added that the bridge-building process would need some “teasing out” in the coming months.