Changing Attitude Ireland, the Church of Ireland’s pro-gay group, has welcomed the appointment of Reverend Richard Clarke as the new primate of All-Ireland.

He will take over from Alan Harper, who has retired as the archbishop of Armagh, after five years in the role.

Canon Charles Kenny, the secretary of the group, expressed his hope that Archbishop Clarke would engage with the church’s gay members with a view to making the Church of Ireland a genuinely inclusive place for LGBT Christians.

Canon Kenny said that the exclusion of openly gay and lesbian people from entering the ordained ministry and the exclusion in some parishes of gay men and women from Holy Communion were injustices that needed to be addressed.

In an interview with the Belfast News Letter, Archbishop Clarke said that he believed the church could eventually solve its long-running internal row over homosexuality and that it would not split up over the issue:

“I would be concerned if I believed that that is a certainty.

“What I would say is that I have hope that as a church we will continue a very careful process of discernment and I would believe that there is the will within the Church of Ireland north and south to find a way through,” Archbishop Clarke said.

The 63-year-old has been described by one church observer as “a conservative liberal”.