An Anglican Archbishop who made a speech that appeared to give the go-ahead for same-sex marriage has clarified his position today.

The Times reported that Archbishop of Armagh, Alan Harper, said that if homosexuality was proven to be biologically predetermined “it will be necessary to acknowledge the full implications of that new aspect of the truth.”

The Primate of All Ireland was speaking at the annual conference of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

However, a statement from the Church of Ireland issued today said:

“The address calls for a mature discussion of the issue of homosexuality that draws upon both scripture and the results of scientific research using the application of traditional Anglican methods.

“Archbishop Harper’s closely argued address applies Anglican method as described by the 16th century theologian Richard Hooker.

“The Archbishop does not call for a particular outcome. The Archbishop’s address draws no parallels between same-sex relationships and marriage.”

In his speech, Archbishop Harper challenged those who use St Paul’s epistles, in which homosexuality is condemned.

He said the Church was a body open to evolution in its doctrines to take on board developments in science and understanding.

Thus, if it is proven that people are born homosexual, “the Church would have to accept that homosexuals committed “natural” rather than “unnatural” acts with each other”.

The editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, Canon Ian Ellis, said that the Anglican community on the island not ready to recognise same sex marriages.

“I understand the Archbishop was indicating that should it become to be understood that homosexual acts were natural as opposed to unnatural then the Church of Ireland may be prepared to discuss a new status for homosexual relationships,” he told the Londonderry Sentinel.

Ireland has been at the centre of several stories surrounding gay rights in recent months.

The Republic of Ireland has just introduced a draft civil partnership bill while Northern Ireland politician Iris Robinson caused uproar when she said homosexuality an abomination and implied gay people could become heterosexual through therapy.

The Anglican communion has been at loggerheads over gay issues since the ordination of an openly gay bishop in the US in 2003.

Last month a group of 300 bishops attended a conference in Jerusalem where they repudiated the Church for being supportive of gay relationships.

They are to boycott the Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican leaders held once a decade by the Archbishop of Canterbury. It begins later this month.