Dr Jeffrey John, who has twice lost out on a post as bishop because of his public homosexuality, says his denomination has become the ‘last refuge of prejudice’ and is treating gay relationships as ‘inferior’ to straight ones.

Speaking to the Times, he said in both gay and straight relationships it is possible to have “exactly the same love and commitment”.

He added: “It is not immediately clear why the Church should regard such a relationship as ethically or spiritually inferior to a heterosexual marriage.”

Dr John, 59, has twice had his chance of becoming an Anglican bishop blocked because of his celibate civil partnership. He called the way the Church was seen as an enemy of gays “a disaster”.

Having been forced to hand back an offer to become Bishop of Reading in 2003 after his sexuality was made public, in 2010 it was reported the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams decided his proposed appointment as Bishop of Southwark would lead to a split in the church, fearing evangelical parishes would not recognise him as a bishop.

Dr John added to The Times yesterday: “Same-sex monogamy seems to me to be spiritually indistinguishable from a marriage between two people who are unable to have children.

“The fact that fifty years on [after the decriminalisation of homosexuality] the Church is seen as enemy No 1 of gay people is a disaster, both for our own morale and for our mission to the country. We have become the last refuge of prejudice.”

In January, it was reported that Dr John had hired Alison Downie, one of Britain’s leading Equality Act lawyers to take on a discrimination case against the Church over its refusal to appoint him bishop for his public relationship. It was said he was no longer personally interested in becoming a bishop but wanted to clear the way for other gay clergy to gain promotion.