THE Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Anglican Church has likely caused “great harm” to gay people in the past but any attempt to legitimise same-sex marriage could tear the community apart.

The comments, published over Easter, came just days after a Church of England priest wedded his male partner.

Archbishop Justin Welby (pictured), head of the Church of England and a figurehead for Anglicans worldwide, admitted the church had not stood up for LGBTI people in the past.

“We are struggling with the reality that there are different groups around the place that the church can do — or has done — great harm to,” he told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.

“You look at some of the gay, lesbian, LGBT groups in [Britain] and around the world — Africa included, actually — and their experience of abuse, hatred, all kinds of things.”

However, there are strong signals that any move by the Church of England to recognise same-sex marriage could lead many African churches to split with Canterbury.

Last month, Uganda’s Anglican Archbishop, Stanley Ntagali, said homosexuality was “incompatible with scripture,” and said if the Church of England leadership gave ground on same-sex marriage, “we shall have no choice but to be on our own.”

Archbishop Welby said it was critical the church remained as one if it were to continue to help vulnerable people around the world.

“I do believe passionately that unity is something we have to maintain,” he said.

“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.”

Meanwhile, a gay priest from Lincolnshire, in eastern England, has become the first member of the clergy to take advantage of the UK’s new same-sex marriage laws.

Canon Jeremy Pemberton, a divorced hospital chaplain, wed his long-term partner Laurence Cunnington last week.

The couple, who would have been unable to marry at an Anglican church due to the Church of England being legally forbidden from performing ceremonies, also went against recently issued ‘pastoral guidance’ banning priests from wedding their same-sex partners.

Following the wedding, Pemberton tweeted that the ceremony had been “very moving and very happy.”

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

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