Two top global church leaders are sparking controversy with comments that seem to accept homosexuality without officially endorsing it.
Pope Francis is criticizing laws criminalizing homosexual behavior as "unjust" saying God loves all people just as they are.
"Being homosexual isn't a crime," Francis said, speaking in terms of earthly laws.
The leader of the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics called on bishops to welcome LGBTQ people into the church during an exclusive interview with The Associated Press.
Currently, 67 countries or jurisdictions around the world criminalize same-sex acts.
Declaring such laws "unjust," Francis said the Catholic Church should work to put an end to laws that restrict homosexual behavior. "It must do this. It must do this," he said.
The pope said bishops who support the laws – or those which discriminate against the LGBTQ community – should recognize the dignity of everyone. But he still referred to the issue in terms of "sin."
Bantering with himself, Francis said, “It's not a crime. Yes, but it's a sin. Fine, but first let's distinguish between a sin and a crime.”
He said bishops in particular need to undergo a process of change on this issue.
It's the first time a pope has spoken out against such laws.
Archbishop of York: Homosexuality Not Necessarily Sinful
Meanwhile, the Church of England is in the middle of a similar debate. Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell told BBC News in a new interview that he believes sexual immorality is not sinful.
Cottrell's interview Sunday followed the Church of England's announcement that it would not allow "gay marriage" but would allow "blessings" for same-sex couples in civil partnerships in its churches.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in England and Wales since 2013. The church did not change its teaching when the law changed.
Cottrell told BBC interviewer William Crawley he thinks the Church of England has found a "human… but I think godly way forward."
Crawley pressed the archbishop suggesting the church is ultimately 'sitting on the fence' on the same-sex marriage issue.
"Well, that's not how I see it, no," Cottrell replied. "I see it as a way of holding together a church which doesn't agree on this issue and it takes us to a place where LGBTIQ+ people, people entering into same-sex marriages, people in civil partnerships are able to come to the Church of England and those relationships and marriages can be acknowledged and celebrated."
"People can receive God's blessing, and that's a good thing," he continued. "Yes, of course, there are people who want more, but as we've just heard, there are people who want a great deal less. So yeah, I think it's something that, yeah, I think it's a new place that we're in."
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Crawley then asked if Cottrell could clarify whether the Church of England still believes that "gay sex is sin."
"Well, what we are saying is that physical and sexual intimacy belongs in committed, stable, faithful relationships, and therefore where we see a committed, stable, faithful relationship between two people of the same sex, we are now in a position where those people can be welcomed fully into the life of the Church, on their terms," he replied.
"And given a blessing: you don't bless sin, right?" Crawley asked. "So you must be blessing something you believe to be good."
"As I say, we believe that stable, faithful, committed, loving relationships are good," Cottrell replied. "They are the place for physical intimacy…"
"And not a sin?" Crawley interjected.
"But well, that… that's what I'm saying… we're looking to focus on the good in relationships and we want people to live in good, stable, faithful relationships," the archbishop answered.
The Archbishop of York's recent comments contradict the Lambeth 1998 Resolution I.10 of the international Anglican Communion declaring:
"In view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage", and "cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions."
In 2019, Cottrell then known as "Bishop Stephen" was exposed telling clergy in the diocese to get on board with "same-sex marriage or leave" the church, according to Christian Concern.
"The comments from the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, on the BBC embody the compromised position of the Church of England on human sexuality," Andrea Williams, a member of the Church of England's general synod for ten years and currently chief executive of Christian Concern, said in a statement.
"The role of the Archbishop of York is to lead in explaining God's beautiful pattern for human life and relationships, not to preside over a convoluted process of compromise. Sadly, it has been a failure of leadership from the start by the Archbishop of Canterbury and York. For this, they will answer to God, and we must pray for them. It is not loving or kind to hide the truth from the culture," Williams continued.
"What we have needed for so long on these issues is spiritual leadership from the Church of England's hierarchy. Sadly, however, what we have seen is a relentless and determined capitulation to the spirit of the age from the Archbishop of York, among others. The church and Christians are called to be distinct from the world around them and yet the Archbishop has shown he is ashamed of the clear teachings of Jesus Christ," Williams' statement concluded.
Rebecca Hunt, a member of the Church of England's general synod, said: "The Bible clearly teaches us that in order for humans to flourish, the good gift of sex has its proper place only within the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. This is what the Anglican church worldwide has believed throughout its history. If we teach people otherwise, we are deceiving them with eternal consequences for them and for us. The Church of England stands at the edge of an abyss: unless we repent, Jesus says in Revelation chapter two that our lampstand will be removed from its place."
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