The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the Church of England accepting gay marriage could be “catastrophic” for Christians in other parts of the world.
The Most Rev Justin Welby told LBC that hundreds of Christians in Africa had been killed by people who associated Christianity with homosexuality.
He warned the same could happen if the Church of England backed gay unions.
Same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales last week, but is not supported by the Church.
Speaking on his first live phone-in on LBC Radio, Archbishop Welby recalled visiting a grave in South Sudan where 369 people had been buried.
He said the victims had been killed because local people believed allowing a Christian community to exist would mean “we would all be made to become homosexual”.
“That burns itself into your soul”, he said. “As does the suffering of gay people in this country.”
He also spoke of visiting a group of Christians in Africa who had been attacked because of policies of churches in America.
And he said religious figures in South Sudan had pleaded with him not to change Church policy because it would mean they could no longer accept help from England.
Archbishop Welby acknowledged that homophobic behaviour causes “enormous suffering”.
But he said there is a “danger” in looking for “simple solutions”.
He added: “The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic – and we have to love them as much as the people who are here.”
Rev Bob Callaghan, the National Coordinator of Inclusive Church, which wants the church to be “open to all”, said violence against Christians abroad was a risk.
He said the Church in England would need to consider the impact of a change in its stance “on a global scale”.
But he added: “The debate is not happening and that is part of the problem”.