Updated, with this story from Anglican Communion News Service, which places the grave Archbishop Welby spoke of in South Sudan.
Archbishop Justin Welby suggested in a talk radio interview today that African Christians have been massacred due to the acceptance of homosexuality “in America”, and that more may be killed if the Church of England accepts equal marriage.
“I have stood by gravesides in Africa of a group of Christians who had been attacked because of something that had happened in America. We have to listen to that. We have to be aware of the fact,” Welby said. If the Church of England celebrated gay marriages, he added, “the impact of that on Christians far from here, in South Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic. Everything we say here goes round the world.”
This reasoning has until now been kept private, although both Welby and his predecessor, Rowan Williams, anguished about it in private.
Welby also condemned homophobia in England. “To treat every human being with equal importance and dignity is a fundamental part of being a Christian,” he said. Although he continued to uphold what he called the historic position of the church, of “sex only within marriage and marriage only between a man and a woman”, he agreed with the presenter, James O’Brien, that it was “completely unacceptable” for the church to condemn homosexual people more than adulterous heterosexual people.
African churches do not share this opinion, and the Anglican churches in both Uganda and Nigeria have given enthusiastic backing to laws which criminalise even the expression of support for gay marriage.
A spokesman for Lambeth Palace said he could not comment further on the archbishop’s statements, and would not say whether Welby was making reference to the Episcopal Church’s consecration of openly gay and lesbian bishops.
The archbishop will be in the United States next week to speak at Reclaiming the Gospel of Peace, an Episcopal Church-sponsored event in Oklahoma City.