The Bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, went against the official line of the Church of England and said the church should be offering blessing services for gay couples’ unions.
Making his presidential address to the Diocese of Liverpool Synod, Bishop Jones questioned whether it was Christian for the Church of England to hold its current stance, in opposition to equal marriage, and questioned whether the church should “deny the blessing of God to that which is just”, for much longer.
“How has the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in spite of its Global reach become so alienating and exclusive?” he said, quoting text from Philippians, which speaks of Jewish people and non-Jewish people being equal members of the church, reports the Telegraph.
He continued: “Over the years I have shared with you my thinking about how the Gospel of embrace may be felt by those who are gay.”
“If the Church now recognises Civil Partnerships to be a just response to the needs of gay people then surely the Church now has to ask the question whether or not it can deny the blessing of God to that which is just.”
Bishop Jones did go on to say, however, that he did not support equal marriage in name. He said: “I believe that there is a difference between heterosexual union and same gender intimacy and that it is appropriate to maintain that difference in the language we use.”
He did say that future historians would think it was “extraordinary” that “the litmus test of orthodoxy centred on whether or not one had a generous attitude to those who are gay.”
Bishop Jones comes from the evangelical wing of the Church of England, the same as the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The evangelical wing has been at the forefront of maintaining a traditional stance on marriage.
Bishop Jones was once one of the most opposed to condoning homosexuality in the Church of England, and his change of heart on this issue has been hailed as landmark, as he is the most senior member of the church to call for a review of its policy.
He was one of the senior figures who publicly urged the openly gay Dr Jeffery John to stand aside in his running for Bishop of Reading. He did later apologise to the new Dean of St Albans.
Bishop Jones is set to retire later this year.
The newly elected Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby said earlier this week that he supports strengthening gay relationships and recognises that the love between people of the same-sex is as “no less” than heterosexual couples.
Last weekend, it was revealed in previously unpublished notes that the archbishop had written that the children of heterosexual couples were likely to be happier than those of same-sex couples. He wrote: “Throughout the bible it is clear that the right place for sex is only within a committed heterosexual marriage.