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As the Anglican Church of Australia prepares for its general synod in July, major divisions have appeared following an archbishop's request that the church bless lifelong homosexual "friendships."

The Primate of the Church in Australia, Peter Carnley, has suggested the church should bless such unions and concentrate on the spiritual quality of the friendship without inquiring into intimate physical matters.

In a paper prepared for the synod, Carnley, a liberal theologian who is also Archbishop of Perth, capital of the state of Western Australia, said that friendship was "essential for providing an appropriate and supportive context for working out the details of a life of moral goodness. The church's calling is to foster such friendships."

He said that for the church to "specify limits of [physical] touch" would be as inappropriate for a relationship between people of the same gender it would be in heterosexual marriage. "Does the church become involved in this, or is to do so merely an expression of the modern obsession with sex, an example of the voyeurism endemic in the modern world imported into the ecclesiastical environment?" Carnley's paper asks.

Following publication of an edited excerpt of his paper in The Bulletin, a national news magazine, two senior members of the Sydney diocese, both possible candidates for the position of archbishop of Sydney, Australia's biggest city, strongly criticized the Primate's views. Robert Forsyth, Bishop of South Sydney, told The Sydney Morning Herald that "any suggestion that the Anglican Church should bless a sexual relationship that is not fully marriage of a man and a woman is not possible if we are to remain faithful to Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures."

"If it means the Christian ...

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