The Archbishop of Canterbury has given his strongest endorsement of gay bishops yet in an interview with The Times Magazine.
Dr. Rowan Williams spoke of his personal support for bishops who are gay but said they must remain celibate.
"There's no problem about a gay person who's a bishop. It's about the fact that there are traditionally, historically, standards that the clergy are expected to observe," he said.
When asked what was wrong with a gay bishop having a partner, the Anglican spiritual leader said the scriptural and traditional approach "doesn't give much ground for being positive about it."
He admitted that there was still no agreement on the issue, saying that the Church "doesn't quite know what to make of it," and acknowledged that discussing it can lead to difficulties for homosexuals living in countries where opposition to homosexuality is strong.
In spite of the disagreements over homosexuality, which have threatened to tear the worldwide Anglican Communion apart, Williams insisted that traditional and liberal Anglicans should still stick together.
"We actually need each other, however much we dislike each other," he said.
Canon Vinay Samuel, founder of the Oxford Center of Mission Studies, responded to the archbishop's comments by criticizing the Western church's "obsession" with the issue of sexuality and urging the Church to uphold biblical teaching on homosexuality.
"There is still no incontrovertible evidence to suggest that orientation is not a choice but an inherited characteristic," he said in a response posted on Anglican Mainstream.
"More than two decades of research in many fields has failed to confirm that gays are born that way," he pointed out. "So if someone believes strongly that they are gay ... in such a situation the Church necessarily, clearly, firmly and consistently has to witness to the teaching on sexuality which it has received and which it is called to uphold.
"Also it must require that its clergy uphold that teaching whatever their self understanding."
He pointed to figures released by the Office for National Statistics this week showing that homosexuals make up just 1.5 percent of the British population and are mainly from the professional classes.
"The need of these classes for acceptance by the Church pushes these issues to the center," Vinay added. "The vast majority of the Church does not wish to do that and yet it appears that the Church in the West is obsessed by it.
"The Church's mission in God's world cannot be handicapped by the need to keep responding to the incessant demands of this particular segment of the professional class whose long-term commitment to the church has never been demonstrated."