The Church of England accepting same-sex marriage will endanger the lives of Christians in countries where homosexuality is illegal, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.
Archbishop Justin Welby, the spiritual head of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the 80-million Anglican Communion, was speaking in a phone-in program on London's LBC radio on Friday.
He said of particular concern to him is the suffering of gay people, especially teenagers.
"It's something I wrestle with every day, and often in the middle of the night. I'm incredibly conscious of the position of gay people in this country, how badly they've been treated over the years, how badly the church has behaved.
"And, at the same time I'm incredibly conscious of what I saw in January in the South Sudan in the DRC and other places, you know, it's not a simple issue," he continued.
He was asked by one caller as to whether the Church of England would accept same-sex marriage after it was legalized.
Welby replied, "The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here."
He recalled visiting a grave in South Sudan where 369 people had been buried.
"I've stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who'd been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America. And they were attacked by other people because of that.
"That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country," he stated.
The archbishop, a former banking and oil industry executive, is the spiritual head of the Church of England and the symbolic head of the 80-million Anglican Communion.
He condemned homophobia in England saying, "To treat every human being with equal dignity that is one of the basic rules of being a Christian."
The archbishop was asked for clarity by Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative Party lawmaker who said she left the Church of England in 1993 saying it "never seems to know what it thinks about anything."
Welby said, "I just said the Church is quite clear that sex outside marriage is wrong, and marriage has been understood as between a man and woman. That seems to be a fairly clear statement."
The Anglican Communion has in recent years faced a schism between churches tolerant of homosexuality, gay clergy and same sex marriage and those strongly opposed.
Anglican churches in both Uganda and Nigeria have strongly supported laws that criminalize even the expression of support for same-sex marriage.
Welby, however is "completely unacceptable" for the church to condemn homosexual people more than adulterous heterosexual people.
He agreed with the presenter, James O'Brien, that it is "completely unacceptable" for the church to condemn homosexual people more than adulterous heterosexual people.