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Anglican agonizing over sexuality has dogged Williams since 2002 when he became spiritual leader of the Church of England and of the Anglican Communion.

When Mr. John was nominated become bishop of Reading, Mr. Williams is believed to have yielded to conservative opposition.

“He cracked after two months of pressure and asked John to withdraw his name, establishing his reputation as a man who could be bullied,” religion commentator Andrew Brown wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

“If he is beaten again, he is finished. If he wins, he will have shot the rapids and the Church of England will finally emerge from the turbulence of the last 30 years with a fairly clear and fairly coherent doctrine about sex.”

The prime minister, in an interview with the gay magazine Attitude early this year, said his Conservative Party supported equal rights “whether you are male, female, black, white, urban, rural, straight or gay.” The church, Cameron said, “has to do some of the things that the Conservative Party has been through — sorting this issue out and recognizing that full equality is a bottom line full essential.”