Church of England clarifies Archbishop of Canterbury's gay marriage comments

(AP)

The Church of England has clarified its opposition on same-sex marriage following an interview between the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pink News.

He is the first Archbishop to speak to a gay news publication.

Asked by Pink News if he had a message for Britain's LGBT community, the Archbishop said: "As you know I have said, and got a fair amount of flak for it within parts of the Church, we have to accept, and quite rightly, that the same-sex marriage act is law, and that it's right and proper, it's the law of the land, and that's great.

"What's my message to the gay community? We are struggling with the issues across the Church globally. It's complicated with ramifications that are very difficult to deal with in many parts of the world."

Lambeth Palace has since qualified the comments, saying that the Archbishop was referring to the right of Parliament to change the laws on an issue.

A Lambeth Palace spokesperson was quoted in the Telegraph as saying: "The Archbishop has said numerous times that he accepts the right of Parliament to change the law and that the Church should continue to demonstrate the love of Christ for every person."

The comments come shortly after the Archbishop announced a set of measures aimed at stamping out homophobic bullying in Church of England schools.

At a school in Lewisham earlier this week, the Archbishop said: "Anti-gay bullying is always unacceptable and totally wrong.

"The Church has to learn from its past and to turn away from often using [homophobic] language."

However, the new guidelines still refer to homosexuality as "less than God's ideal".

The Archbishop of Canterbury had previously used his position in the House of Lords to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.

Last June, he said he felt that legalising same sex marriage "weakens" traditional marriage and would replace the "normal" family with something "less good".

"We think that traditional marriage is a cornerstone of society," he told fellow peers.

"Rather than adding a new and valued institution alongside it for same gender relationships, which I would personally strongly support to strengthen us all, this Bill weakens what exists and replaces it with a less good option that is neither equal nor effective.

"The concept of marriage as a normative place for procreation is lost; the idea as marriage as covenant is diminished; the family in its normal sense, predating the state, and as our base community of society, as we have already heard, is weakened."

In the interview with Pink News, the Archbishop stressed that all people are sinful.

"All people are failures in many different ways. There is no one who is a complete success in their life in which everything is right," he said.  

"Therefore the love of Christ is universal for all people irrespective of who they are and the Church has to find a way of expressing that."

He also acknowledged that the decision by some gay clergy to defy a ban by marrying their same-sex partners had put the Church in "a really difficult" situation.

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