The Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested that he cannot allow the blessing of gay marriages because it would split the global Anglican Church.
Although sympathetic to calls for the Church to honour same-sex relationships in public, the Most Rev Justin Welby said it was ‘impossible’ for some worshippers in Africa to support homosexuality.
Speaking after the introduction last month of gay marriage in England and Wales by the Government, the Archbishop said that the Church, which has 77 million followers globally, must not take a step that would cut these groups off.
‘I may be wrong, but I also believe that to take a step that means that people who desperately need our help – and who we can help – can’t take it, feel in their own culture that it is impossible to be helped by us, is something that we can’t easily do.’
He said the Church must listen to the world’s ‘victims of oppression and poverty’ 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?’
The Archbishop said he visited the scene of a massacre of Christians in South Sudan and had been told by religious leaders that they would not accept the Anglican Church’s help in future if blessings of gay marriage were allowed.
The Archbishop insisted he was not giving into ‘moral blackmail’ but could not easily take a decision that would cause further deep rifts within the Church. But the Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, said it was ‘wrong’ to relate gay marriage in the West to ‘warlords and people who practise genocide in central Africa’.