The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby once joked that evangelical Christians are like “homophobic European versions of the Taliban”, it has emerged today.

In a decade-old interview which only came to light today, Welby – then a canon at Coventry Cathedral – said the church must strike a balance between liberals and evangelicals.

According to Christian Today, biogropher Andrew Atherstone says he unearthed footage of the interview while researching his book, ‘Archbishop Justin Welby: Risk-taker and Reconciler’.

In the 2004 footage, Welby says: “How can we go around the world trying to talk about reconciliation, when we don’t live it out in our own community?”

He said that some Christians did not want to invite evangelicals “because they’re homophobic European versions of the Taliban”, while others refused liberals “because they don’t preach the gospel”.

He added: “We’re going to have to take some risks if the cathedral community is going to find a safe place to work out its issues in a reconciled way, not with conflict.”

In the same interview, he said that “sexual practice is for marriage, and marriage is between men and women, and that’s the biblical position”, adding that while the issue is difficult, “it’s what the Bible says.”

“The Bible is actually clear that homosexual practice is not permitted, is against the will of God.

“Pastorally I would love to say ‘it’s fine’, I know gay Christian couples who I respect hugely for their spirituality, and in many ways consider infinitely better people than I am… but what I’ve also discovered in my life since I was a Christian, despite some real failures of the most desperate kind, is that God knows best.

“God speaks through Scripture, and if we follow what Scripture says that is the best love that there is.

“Although we constantly fail to do that, if we at any point say, ‘Well, in this particular area, actually because of more recent understandings or whatever, we’re going to do something different’, that pastorally, however we feel, however hard it is – and I can’t begin to describe how difficult it is to say this – however hard it is, we will be letting down the people that we are dealing with pastorally, because God knows best and the Scripture in the end is clear.”

In recent years he has taken a more conciliatory tone, telling PinkNews last month: “The love of Christ is universal for all people irrespective of who they are and the Church has to find a way of expressing that.”