CANTERBURY, England — Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the Anglican Communion, has expressed deep concern about the stress that the Episcopal Church’s vote on gay marriage might cause to some in the 80 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday (July 1) to let gay couples marry in the church’s religious ceremonies, reinforcing its support for same-sex nuptials days after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage nationwide.

Among the changes to church laws on marriage, gender-specific language will be dropped. “Husband” and “wife” will be replaced with “the couple.”

The Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion, became in 2012 the largest U.S. denomination to approve a liturgy for clergy to use in blessing same-sex unions.

The move by the Episcopal Church contrasts with the position of the Church of England, which secured an exemption in law from ever having to perform a gay marriage ceremony when Parliament passed a law in 2014 making same-sex marriage legal.

In a statement issued from Lambeth Palace, the archbishop’s London home, Welby said that the American church’s decision “will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith resolutions.”

Welby is the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion as well as senior primate of the Church of England, the established church whose Supreme Governor is Queen Elizabeth II.

The statement issued to the Anglican Communion News Service quoted the archbishop saying, “At a time of such suffering around the world, this is a moment for the church to be looking outwards. We continue to mourn with all those who are grieving loved ones and caring for the injured from the terrorist attacks in Sousse (Tunisia), Kuwait and Lyons (France) and from the racist attacks in Charleston.”

It quoted Welby calling for “a space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces, so that in the face of adversity and disagreement, Anglicans may be a force for peace and seek to respond to the Lord Jesus’s prayer that ‘they may be one so that the world may believe.’” (John 17:21)

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