Archbishop of York clashes with Piers Morgan over gay marriage

John Sentamu was invited on the programme to discuss his views on the EU referendum.ITV / Good Morning Britain

The Archbishop of York became embroiled in a live TV argument over same-sex marriage on Wednesday morning as ITV presenter Piers Morgan accused him of homophobia. 

Archbishop John Sentamu was appearing on Good Morning Britain when Morgan compared homophobia and racism. Sentamu, who is originally from Uganda, was visibly irritated at Morgan's suggestions.

"This is the trouble I have with the people who argue that the question of sexuality is equal in terms of argument to the question of slavery.

"No, some of my relations died on the ships. Slavery was a very wrong thing."

The second most senior cleric in the Church of England insisted that an opposition to gay marriage was not homophobic.

"I've got a lot of gay friends and they see me as a friend, as someone who wants to support and defend them against homophobia."

The archbishop was invited onto the programme to defend his intervention on the referendum after he declared his support for remaining in the European Union. However the heated discussion quickly moved onto the aftermath of the Orlando shooting and Morgan argued it was time the Church of England changed its position on gay marriage.

John Sentamu was visibly irritated at Piers Morgan's comparison of the question of sexuality and racism.ITV / Good Morning Britain

The Archbishop responded: "You can still have your view, in terms of teaching the church's position on marriage and at the same time be intolerant of those who are homophobic.

"The church's teaching on marriage between a man and a woman is very clear. I support civil partnerships because for me that's a matter of equality, a matter of fairness.

"My upholding of Christian marriage as I understand it goes hand and hand with saying to people that to diminish homosexual people is anathema to the Christian faith because God loves us all equally."

Morgan accused Sentamu of choosing certain bits of the Bible to apply today and ignoring others but the Archbishop said "the whole Bible" must be read in context and properly understood.

"You can't pick up a verse and just say it says this," said Sentamu. "That would be a nightmare.

"What I would say to you is please, for heaven's sake, don't always have a view that if someone holds a view on the understanding of marriage, they must therefore be homophobic."

However Sentamu refused to say whether he thought homosexuality was a sin.

"I would never say that [homosexuality was a sin]," he said. "Because sin is doing something consciously against God."

The exchange came after Sentamu issued a statement alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury calling on all Christians to support LGBTI people.

"We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification," they said on Monday.

"The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship.

"It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being."