The Archbishop of Wales has hinted that Anglican opposition to equal marriage is not set in stone.
The Church in Wales is currently studying the issue of same-sex relationships in a report to be published later this year.
On Wednesday, in his Presidential Address to members of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales, Dr Barry Morgan warned that there was no one Christian viewpoint on issues such as same-sex relationships or assisted dying.
“We often use Scripture to reinforce viewpoints that we have already arrived at in other ways and for other reasons.
“Some people have changed their minds for example on women’s ministry and same-sex relationships when they have experienced the ministry of a woman priest in the one case, or discovered their own son or daughter to be gay in the other.
“Holy Scripture itself is far more nuanced, subtle and complex than we often realise …. We cannot just quote Biblical texts on different subject matters and think that that settles an issue.”
Referring to how the Church has previously changed its position on issues such as divorce and re-marriage, he said: “The State allowed the possibility of divorce and re-marriage for a long time before we did as a Church.
“Not only do we now bless such unions, we actually re-marry divorced people in our churches.
“In the past, if a cleric divorced and re-married, that person could no longer continue in the ordained ministry in Wales, whereas now that is no longer a bar to continuing in ministry.
“So our views have evolved and changed on a subject which Jesus pronounced very clearly.
“He had nothing to say about same-sex relationships.
“Will we, as a Church, eventually adopt the same approach as far as same-sex relationships are concerned, as we have done about re-marriage after divorce, or is gay marriage in a different category from the re-marriage of divorced people?
“Whatever our viewpoints, I hope that our discussions can be charitable.”
The Archbishop reminded members that peoples’ lives would be affected by the Church’s response and warned of the danger of the Church being seen as homophobic.
However, he urged clergy keen to redress the balance and publicly bless same-sex marriages to be patient.
“Much as some people may want to do so, the rule is the same as was the case over the re-marriage of divorced people – we need to wait for the Church, as a whole, to decide the matter – and we are beginning that process at this Governing Body.”
Welsh gay rights charity Stonewall Cymru welcomed the remarks.
Stonewall Cymru Director Andrew White said: “We’ve always been clear that the Church’s right to decide for itself on same-sex marriage is an important matter of religious freedom.
“The Archbishop has been consistent in his support for LGBT equality. The discussion the Church in Wales are about to enter involves real people, real lives. We know that it will be followed intensely by many same-sex couples in Wales, their families, friends and communities.
“Dr Morgan’s reminder to those gathered about the importance not just of the substance of the debate, but of its tone is therefore very welcome indeed.”