A senior Suffolk bishop has sparked controversy amongst worshippers after helping to launch a gay Christian support group

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, will launch the Gay Christian Support Group which will recognise the contributions that gay and lesbian Christians make.

Rev Lewis is a patron of Changing Attitude, a worldwide Anglican group which works for gay and lesbian affirmation within the community. A spokesman told the East Anglian Daily Times, “This is a subject that is close to his heart. Lesbian and gay Christians have made, and will continue to make, an important contribution to the work of the Church, not just in this county, but across the country.”

“As patron of the Changing Attitude group he is delighted that Suffolk is launching its own branch, adding to the 22 already in existence.

“The fact that Changing Attitudes is operational in itself means that it has already helped people to believe that they are not alone, and not excluded.”

The group will be launched at the Suffolk branch of Changing Attititude, one of the organisers is Rev Andrew Dotchin, he said: “Many Christians are unhappy about the way lesbian and gay people are treated by society and some parts of the Church.

“The aim of our group is to provide support and comfort for lesbian and gay people and their family and friends. We also offer resources to help people explore the relationship between the scriptures, the Church and people of varied sexual orientations.”

“Just getting this far and organising a first meeting has already helped so many people realise they are not alone and that they have friends and supporters within the Church.”

However, not everyone in the area agrees. Brian Langston, pastor of the Needham Market Evangelical Church, said he was not criticising the group but said there was no doubt in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong.

He said: “Everybody is for supporting homosexuals, in advising them. We are supportive of that, we are not homophobic. I am not against this group, I do not know what they stand for.

“All we are saying is that in the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. Many people deny this, but it is so plain. It’s the same as adultery or theft.

“We base our belief on scripture. The Bible is the complete word of God, given by God, and you can’t go changing it or updating it.”

Changing Attitude has branches in more than half the dioceses of the Church of England and has sister organisations in Scotland and New Zealand. It is open to anyone interested or concerned about gay rights within the Church.