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In private correspondence, seen by the Daily Telegraph, Dr Rowan Williams, refutes the Anglican Communion's traditional teaching that homosexuality is sinful.
Furthermore, he expresses his hope that the Church will change its position to be more accepting of gay partnerships.
His comments – made in a letter written shortly before he became Archbishop of Canterbury – will infuriate the conservatives who boycotted the recent Lambeth Conference in protest at the presence of liberals who elected Anglicanism's first openly gay bishop.
Leading evangelicals have claimed that he is in an "untenable position".
"The Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct or nature," Dr Williams writes.
"By the end of the 80s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognise as homosexual by nature.
"I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had the about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."
Although Dr Williams was known to have liberal views on the issue of homosexuality when he was appointed as archbishop in 2002, since moving to Canterbury he has tried to hold a traditional line for the sake of unity in the Church.
However, he makes clear in the letter that he believes that the Church could relax its strict teaching with time.
"The Church has shifted its stance on several matters – notably the rightness of lending money at interest and the moral admissibility of contraception so I am bound to ask if this is another such issue," he says.
"If I am really seriously wrong on this, I can only pray to be shown the truth."
Dr Williams is critical of those who have politicised the issue, "treating it as the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy".
This will be perceived as an attack at conservative Anglican leaders who have since claimed that the Church is split following the consecration of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.
Conservative Anglican leaders said that the disclosure of the letter revealed the true mind of Dr Williams and significantly weakens his position as he battles to save the Church from schism.
Read the rest of this truly tragic and never-ending tale....