An evangelical Christian group in the U.K. says it's in "shock" that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby's "outstanding service to the church" award has been given to Christian lesbian singer Vicky Beeching.
"Vicky Beeching rejects Christian teaching on sexual ethics by advocating for same-sex marriage," Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute, said in a statement on Tuesday.
"I'm shocked that the archbishop should choose to honor someone so out-of-step with the biblical understanding of marriage and sexual morality," he added.
Beeching, who came out as a lesbian in 2014 and argued that God loves her "just the way I am," received the Thomas Cranmer Award for Worship earlier this month by the head of the Anglican Communion.
"Still amazed this happened last Friday. Never thought, after coming out as gay, that I would receive an award like this. Means so much," she tweeted in responce to the recognition.
Welby, who in the ceremony at Lambeth Palace honored 35 people from around the world for their outstanding service to the Church, said that Beeching's songs have "become staples in churches around the globe."
Welby added: "Her music has brought the Gospel message to many who would otherwise not have heard it. The Guardian called her 'arguably the most influential Christian of her generation' for her progressive impact on the Church, and the Telegraph placed her in their 'Top 100 Britons.' The impact of her songs on contemporary worship has been outstanding."
Beeching said receiving the award was a "very positive step" in regard to the Church affirming LGBT people.
"I hope that including someone like me in this year's Lambeth Palace Awards is a positive sign that inclusivity is on the horizon," she told PinkNews.
Christian theologians, such as Robert A. J. Gagnon, associate professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, responded to Beeching coming out in 2014 by stating that same-sex attraction "contradicts the intentional handiwork of our Creator."
"It does not require personal knowledge of Ms. Beeching to know that in being erotically aroused by what she shares in common with another woman (i.e., the essential nature of femaleness) she is finding an exotic attraction in another person whose sex or gender is not in fact exotic to her own," Gagnon added at the time.
"The image of marriage in Genesis 2 is that the two halves of the sexual spectrum, man and woman, reunite into a single, integrated sexual whole. She is already intact in relation to her own sex; it's the other half of the sexual spectrum that she doesn't have covered."
Welby and the Church of England affirm the biblical definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, but the Anglican Communion continues to face internal divide over the issue.
Earlier in June the Scottish Episcopal Church voted to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, becoming the first major U.K. church to break from the Anglican majority, with the CofE noting in a statment that there is "real and profound disagreement" on the topic.