In a u-turn on his previous commitment to supporting civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples, Archbishop Justin Welby has endorsed the Church of England’s statement opposing them.

The Church of England released a statement on Friday expressing its opposition to suggestions that the government may amend the equal marriage act to allow civil partnerships for opposite-sex couples.

“We believe that this would introduce further confusion about the place of marriage in society,” it read. “We remain unconvinced that the introduction of such an option would satisfy a genuine and widespread public need, other than for those who pursue ‘equality’ as an abstract concept.”

According to the Independent, pressure from church leaders has led Archbishop Welby to endorse the message, signalling a u-turn on his previous pledge to support amending civil partnerships to allow opposite-sex couples to have them.

Peter Tatchell met with Archbishop Welby in April, and reported that the Archbishop had pledged to vote for amendments opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples when the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill reached the House of Lords.

“The Archbishop told me very clearly that he supported the right of heterosexual couples to have civil partnerships,” said Mr Tatchell. “I am very surprised that he is now saying that he endorses the church’s opposition. It seems to be a reversal of what he told me only four weeks ago.” He expressed concern that Archbishop Welby “had been lent on by the church hierarchy.”

On Thursday, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that the government intends to review the future of civil partnerships exactly five years from the point when the same-sex marriage bill comes into law for England and Wales.

The review has been tabled by the government as an amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which will reach its report stage in the House of Commons next week.

It opens the door for the possible extension of civil partnerships to heterosexuals – something which Culture Secretary Maria Miller ruled out as current government policy on Tuesday.

Responding to the review, Peter Tatchell said: “While the government’s promise of a review of civil partnership law is welcome, it is unnecessary. A majority of the public support the retention of civil partnerships and want to make them available to heterosexual couples, according to the government’s own public consultation last year.”