Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of challenge posed to Church by ‘stunning’ gay couples

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Ahead of his enthronement later today the Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of his admiration for gay couples, while confirming that he supports the Church of England’s anti-equal marriage stance.

Archbishop Justin Welby, who officially started in his role as the head of the Church of England last month, was interviewed today by the BBC prior to his formal enthronement ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Archbishop said he was “deeply challenged” by questions of how the Church should deal with sexuality and same-sex relationships, as he noted: “You see gay relationships that are just stunning in the quality of the relationship.”

However, he stated that he did see changing the Church’s anti-equal marriage stance as a way of overcoming this challenge.

He said: “The Church of England holds very firmly, and continues to hold to the view, that marriage is a lifelong union of one man to one woman.

“At the same time, at the heart of our understanding of what it is to be human, is the essential dignity of the human being. And so we have to be very clear about homophobia.”

Earlier this month the Archbishop said on a radio show that he knew of same-sex partners who set an “example” to other couples, but added: “It’s not the same as marriage.”

It emerged today that Archbishop Welby has agreed to meet with Peter Tatchell after the human rights campaigner urged him to support LGBT equality in an open letter on the eve of his enthronement.

The Archbishop responded, agreeing to arrange a private meeting and adding: “I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return.”

It is the first time an Archbishop has offered to meet with Mr Tatchell – who is synonymous with Britain’s LGBT rights movement.

Earlier this month, a series of previously unpublished writings by Archbishop Welby were released, in which he wrote of his opposition to equal adoption rights for gay couples and said that the Bible is “clear” that gay sex is wrong.