Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby ( REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)

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The archbishop of Canterbury says he is not giving a clear answer on whether homosexual sex is a sin because of "irreconcilable" differences in the Anglican church worldwide.

Justin Welby unequivocally said that hatred against individuals was sinful, whether because they are gay, female or a different race.

But he admitted "copping out" on the question of gay sex in the interview with GQ magazine.

'Absolutely Central'

The wide-ranging interview, which also covered Brexit and his role as the leader of the established church, was conducted by Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former director of communications.

The archbishop told Campbell, "within myself, the things that seem to me to be absolutely central are around faithfulness, stability of relationships and loving relationships".

Asked whether such relationships could be between two people of the same sex, he said: "I know it could be. I am also aware —a view deeply held by tradition since long before Christianity, within the Jewish tradition—that marriage is understood invariably as being between a man and a woman."

'Deeply Divided'

But he continued: "I know that the church around the world is deeply divided on this in some places, including the Anglicans and other churches, not just us, and we are—the vast majority of the church is—deeply against gay sex."

He added: "I am having to struggle to be faithful to the tradition, faithful to the Scripture, to understand what the call and will of God is in the 21st century and to respond appropriately with an answer for all people—not condemning them, whether I agree with them or not—that covers both sides of the argument.

"And I haven't got a good answer, and I am not doing that bit of work as well as I would like."

'Struggling'

The archbishop acknowledged this was because of divergent opinions across worldwide congregations. He described the differences as "irreconcilable."

He then told Campbell that it is not "sinful to say that you disagree with gay sex," but expressing hatred for individuals' sexuality is "absolutely wrong," like racism or misogyny.

In a conclusion to the comments released online by GQ, he said he admitted to morally "copping out because I am struggling with the issue." 

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