The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was “extremely joyful” about plans to allow church blessings for same-sex couples, but warned deep divisions existed within the world’s Anglican community over the issue.
“I will be extremely, joyfully celebratory of these new (prayers of blessing),” he told a news conference.
But said he would not personally offer such blessings due to opposition by much of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which he is ceremonial head.
“I will not personally use them in order not to compromise that pastoral care,” Welby told reporters at his official London residence, Lambeth Palace.
Highlighting the difficult position the Church finds itself in, Welby’s colleague Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, said he would conduct such blessings.
Cottrell fought back tears as he recounted the story of a late friend, who was a priest in a gay relationship with another priest. No biblical readings were allowed in the couple’s secular marriage service.
The Church will still not allow same-sex church weddings, due to opposition from the Anglican Communion that makes up the bulk of its congregation.
But it has quelled the immediate row with its compromise.
Bishops met on Tuesday to finalise recommendations of a six-year consultation into the issue, which affirmed the Church’s teaching that Holy Matrimony exists between one man and one woman for life.
The issue will not be put to a vote at the General Synod, the Church’s legislative body, when it meets in London early next month.
‘Live together with our disagreements’
However, Welby warned the splits could re-emerge.
“I can’t predict the future,” he said.
“We’re divided and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. The Church of England and the Anglican Communion are very divided,” he added.
“There are widely different views. The vast majority of the Anglican Communion hold to the traditional view.”
The Anglican Communion comprises 43 Churches around the world in 165 countries, with around 85 million members.
Despite the division, Welby said the Church’s global leaders were in agreement that “God in His love and grace came as fully human… in order to reach out to every human being, whatever their sexuality or colour or race or gender”.
Welby recognised that the church had often responded to the issue of homosexuality in a “negative and harmful” manner, recounting how a friend had killed himself because of its reaction to his coming out.
Cottrell also accepted that “we got it wrong”.
“We’re not saying we think we’ve got it right now, but we are saying this is a good place to where we can live together with our disagreements and fully acknowledge and welcome (LGBTQ+ members).”
© 2023 AFP