New Archbishop of Canterbury pledges rethink on gay relationships

The new Archbishop of Canterbury has offered an olive branch to the gay community despite reaffirming his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, pledged to examine his own thinking on homosexuality “carefully and prayerfully” and spoke out against “exclusion”.

But he said he supported the Church’s current stance on redefining marriage.

“I support the House of Bishop’s statement in the summer in answer to the government’s consultation on same sex marriage.

I know I need to listen very attentively to the LGBT communities, and examine my own thinking prayerfully and carefully.

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“I am always averse to the language of exclusion, when what we are called to is to love in the same way as Jesus Christ loves us. Above all in the church we need to create safe spaces for these issues to be discussed honestly and in love.”

In his first comments since being announced as the successor to Dr Rowan Williams, he insisted he was “utterly optimistic” about the future of the Church despite there being “many millions” of people outside its influence.

He disclosed that his initial reaction to being offered the job was to think “oh no” but spoke of excitement to be leading the Church at a “time of spiritual hunger”.

And he laughed off his Eton education saying he hoped he would not be “pigeon holed”.

Bishop Welby, 56, will take over as leader of the world’s 77 million Anglicans early next year succeeding Dr Rowan Williams, who steps down after Christmas.

The former oil executive, who comes from the evangelical wing of the Church, will face the task of healing rifts between liberals and conservatives across the worldwide Anglican Communion.

At home he will lead the response to the Government’s plans to introduce same-sex marriage, an issue which the Church of England has already suggested could threaten disestablishment.

And, depending on the outcome of a knife-edge vote at a special session of the General Synod later this month, he will also have to steer plans to ordain women bishops through their final stages.

The scale of the challenge he faces was underlined this morning in a series of statements from influential African church leaders who warned that the global Communion is in “spiritual and institutional crisis”.

They are calling for primates to be allowed to elected a leader for the global Church in place of the Archbishop of Canterbury claiming that Dr Williams had failed to “restore the Communion to Biblical faith and morality”.


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