Rowan Williams backs gay bishops Archbishop of Canterbury makes first explicit declaration on subject since taking office in 2002Saturday 25 September 2010 Rowan Williams has denied that his present stance on gay sex meant he was not being true to himself. Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/AP The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he has "no problem" with gay people being bishops but they must remain celibate. In his first explicit declaration on the subject since taking office in 2002, Dr Rowan Williams signalled his personal support for the consecration of gay bishops in the Church of England but said he would never endorse gay clergy in relationships because of tradition and historical "standards" . His comments, in an interview in the Times, risk deepening divisions within the church and the wider Anglican communion. Liberals will be angered by his explicit acknowledgement that celibacy must be compulsory for homosexual clergy but not for heterosexuals. While conservative ire will be fuelled by his stance which puts him at odds with church teaching. In the interview, Williams explained why he has stood with conservatives against homosexuality when it came to official church policy. He said that he could not endorse gay relationships for clergy and bishops because "the cost to the church overall was too great to be borne at that point". William said one of the most tortuous periods in his eight years at Lambeth Palace came during the unsuccessful elevation of the cleric Jeffrey John, who was in a gay relationship, to the post of Bishop of Reading. He confessed that he let down John, who was instead appointed Dean of St Albans. This year, John made it on to a shortlist to be the next bishop of Southwark, but his name was later removed from the list. Prior to becoming archbishop, Dr Williams wrote about not "assuming that reproductive sex is a norm". He used today's interview to deny that his present stance on gay sex therefore meant he was not being true to himself. "I think if I were to say my job was not to be true to myself that might suggest that my job required me to be dishonest and if that were the case then I'd be really worried. I'm not elected on a manifesto to further this agenda or that. I have to be someone who holds the reins for the whole debate. To put it very simply, 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. So there's always a question about the personal life of the clergy."