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Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby apologises to the gay and lesbian community

BY David Mercer, PA

Published 15/01/2016

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

The Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised to the gay and lesbian community for the "hurt and pain" caused by the church.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was a "constant source of deep sadness" that people were persecuted because of their sexuality as he spoke after a meeting of Anglican leaders.

Mr Welby said facing protesters, particularly those from Africa, was a reminder of the "pain and suffering of many LGBTI people around the world".

"For me it's a constant source of deep sadness, the number of people who are persecuted for their sexuality," he said.

"I don't have the right to speak for everyone. I wanted to take this say how sorry I am for the hurt and pain, in the past and present, the church has caused."

Mr Welby spoke after church leaders agreed to sanction the American branch of the Anglican Communion over its views on marriage and homosexuality.

A meeting of Anglican primates in Canterbury reached an agreement on measures against the US Episcopal Church, which a statement said had made a "fundamental departure from the faith and teaching" by endorsing gay marriage.

The agreement upheld a "traditional doctrine" of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

The summit aimed to avert a permanent schism in the Anglican Communion amid division dating back to the liberal church's consecration of Canon Gene Robinson, who is gay, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

The primates' statement said: "The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, life-long union. The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."

Asked during a press conference if the church's position made it look outdated Mr Welby admitted that it did in some parts of the world, but not in others.

He said: "It makes us look out of line in the US and UK, yes, but not in many other parts of the world, no. We are a global church and that means that there are different views in different places."

The mistreatment of gay people in some countries, especially those where homosexuality is criminalised, remains a "major concern", Mr Welby added.

Asked about steps the church would take to continue to lobby against the attitudes in these countries he said: "We are not a centralised church which orders people what to do and how much time to spend on doing it.

"I spend an extensive amount of time on this subject both with fellow primates and elsewhere. It is a major concern."

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