The Church of England's highest-ranking cleric, the Archbishop of Canterbury, urged evangelical Christians to “repent” for their mistreatment of gay people in a speech earlier this week.
Archbishop Justin Welby spoke at the opening of new Evangelical Alliance facility in London on Wednesday.
He said that although he voted against a same-sex marriage proposal from his seat in Britain’s House of Lords, he regrets that the Church has “implicitly or explicitly” supported homophobia.
“We have to be really, really repentant about that because it is utterly and totally wrong,” the Bishop declared.
However, he added that rejecting homophobia “doesn't mean that redefining marriage is the right way forward.”
While acknowledging that the gay marriage issue deeply divides Christians, Welby (pictured) said that attitudes toward the subject have shifted dramatically in recent years and that by holding on to outdated views, the Church risks alienating younger people who see opposition to same-sex marriage as “wicked.”
“We have to face the fact that the vast majority of people under 35 think not only that what we are saying is incomprehensible, but also think that we are plain wrong and wicked and equate it to racism and other forms of gross and atrocious injustice,” the bishop said.
But some gay-rights activists remain skeptical about the Welby’s position.
“It is a tiny bit rich to say he has great sympathy for gay people,” said Ben Summerskill of the gay rights group Stonewall. “In the 10 years since the introduction of civil partnerships, the Church has doggedly refused to bless people's long-term partnerships even though they are happy to have services for pets and even canals.”
But Welby remained unrepentant about his vote against gay marriage.
"What I voted against was what seemed to me to be the rewriting the nature of marriage,” he said.
SOURCES: The Guardian, Daily Telegraph