Archbishop James A. Hickey has said he is considering a ministry to homosexuals in the Washington Archdiocese and is studying the new Baltimore program as a possible model.

The announcement came within the context of a modest confrontation between the archbishop and an unofficial gay ministry group here called New Ways Ministry, which has scheduled a national symposium on Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, Nov. 20 to 22 at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase.

Hickey declined to participate in the symposium and notified bishops throughout the country that it had no official recognition by the archdiocese.

"The archbishop felt that New Ways Ministry wanted official approval" for the program which Hickey felt was "ambiguous, and he could not approve or support what they were doing," said archdiocesan spokesman Jay Cormier. Because the symposium is national, Hickey "felt an obligation" to notify bishops throughout the country as well as priests of the archdiocese of his position, Cormier said.

It was in that context that Hickey told both the New Ways Ministry and archdiocesan leaders that he was considering a ministry to homosexuals here and, in preparation, is "studying models" of such ministries elsewhere.

Sister Jeannine Gramick of New Ways Ministry said the primary purpose of the symposium is "not to change the church's teaching on homosexuality -- to be realistic, I don't believe the official church is going to change its stand on the immorality of homosexuality -- but we hope to contribute to theological development on the subject."