The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, says that the Church of England must listen to gay people inside and outside the church.

Writing in Church Times, Rev Platten described attending a meeting of a local gay group in Halifax, in which speakers described feeling isolated, bullied and rejected because of their sexual orientation.

He said that after the meeting, his diocese had begun to “engage” with gay people and discuss what the Bible says about sexual orientation.

Describing the meeting, he said that some attendees appeared nervous and suspicious when he arrived but he felt “shamed” by some of their stories and admitted he had not listened in the past.

He wrote: “The presentation was not all sur­prises, but some elements were shocking. Gay children are bullied at school. Parents reject children on the basis of sexual orientation. Tragically, this much we might expect. Yet young gay people told us of severe violence against them in the streets and even in schools.

“The results of all this are tragically predictable: utter isolation for many, higher rates of mental-health dis­orders, suicidal behaviour, self-harm, substance misuse, and homelessness. Some of the individual stories we heard were shaming to us all.”

Rev Platten wrote: “The Church of God (not just the Church of England) should take a lead here. We ought to encourage real listening, allowing for the possibility of a change of heart, if not a change in our own moral outlook.

“We all have a responsibility to break down homophobia, just as we have to tackle racism or sexism.”

He added: “If more Christians sat down with gay people — active, single, in committed relation­ships or not — they, too, would find stereotypes break down.

“I wonder when most dio­cesan synods last sought a pre­senta­tion from gay Christians about their life in Christ, or dioceses last held day conferences on sexuality and faith.”