The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Church of England cannot give its backing to same-sex marriage, but noted that “there are different groups around the place that the Church can do - or has done - great harm to.”
"You look at some of the gay, lesbian, LGBT groups in this country and around the world - Africa included, actually - and their experience of abuse, hatred, all kinds of things. We must both respond to what we've done in the past and listen to those voices extremely carefully,” Most Rev Justin Welby said in an interview with the Telegraph.
Earlier in the month, Archbishop Welby said on LBC radio that he had visited the grave of 369 Christians in South Sudan, whose killers believed that homosexuality was spread by the faith.
However, he explained during the interview with the newspaper that the dangers faced by the LGBT community did not mean that the Church should end the debate on gay marriage after ceremonies were legalised in England and Wales in late March, citing religious leaders in Africa who said they would not accept his help in the future if he gave his blessing to homosexuality.
“What I said is that I have been in places where that has been the reason given for attacking people,” the Archbishop said.
“Now, as I said then - that doesn't mean that you don't do certain things. That would just be giving in to that kind of terror.
"You can't say, 'We're not going to do X, which we think is right, because it will cause trouble'. That's ridiculous.
“At the same time there are other groups in many parts of the world who are the victims of oppression and poverty, who we also have to listen to, and who find that issue an almost impossible one to deal with," he added.
“How do you hold those two things [in balance] and do what is right and just by all? And not only by one group that you prefer and that is easier to deal with? That’s not acceptable,” he added.
His comments come after he said earlier in the month that the Church of England accepting gay marriage could be "absolutely catastrophic" for Christians in countries where homosexuality is illegal.
On Friday, the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, said Archbishop Welby’s comments were “simply wrong”.
"I think that relating gay marriage in the West to the activities of warlords and people who practise genocide in central Africa is simply wrong. I don’t think it makes sense at all,” the Telegraph reported him as saying.
“If it is true that the cost of keeping the Anglican Communion together is that people keep getting murdered in nasty ways around the world, I say, what do you mean by keeping the Anglican Communion together?” he asked.
Although the Church is legally exempt from carrying out same-sex weddings, it is due to hold a consultation on whether to introduce informal blessing-like services.
While it is advising its clergy to offer pastoral support to members of their congregation in same-sex marriages, gay ordained priests have been barred from being wed.
However, this was defied when Canon Jeremy Pemberton wed his long-term partner Laurence Cunnington last Saturday.
The move means Canon Pemberton may now face a disciplinary process for his defiance of the Church's rules.
Additional reporting by PA
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