An influential evangelical within the Church of England has come out as a lesbian.

Jayne Ozanne who previously sat on the Archbishop’s Council from 1999 to 2004 was originally part of the Orthodox wing of the church, and held conservative views on sexuality.

Today Ms Ozanne has come out as gay and reversed her previous stance, as she was announced as the new director of lobbying group Accepting Evangelicals – which calls for the Church to become fully LGBT inclusive.

In an interview with Christian Today, she opened up about her previously conservative beliefs – joking that equality campaigners “had a heart attack” when she revealed her change of heart.

She said: “I believed very passionately that you either believed in God or were able to enjoy a homosexual relationship.

“They were extremely black and white, I did not believe it was compatible to be gay and a Christian. That was the environment I was brought up in.”

She opened up about having a breakdown that finally led her to realise her sexuality, and coming out to friends and church leaders in 2009.

Ms Ozanne continued: “I had been praying for years for God to give me the grace to be celibate. That very nearly killed me. I could not cope with the loneliness and the craving [for intimacy].

“Basically what happened was I fell madly in love, and I started a relationship with a wonderful woman, who I was with for six years.

“I believe that was God-given in so many ways… when I met her, I hadn’t told anybody.”

She praised Christian singer Vicky Beeching, who came out as gay last year, alongside Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt as her inspiration for returning to campaign for equality.

She said: “Just after Vicky Beeching came out, I had been praying about when would be the right time to re-engage… it suddenly felt that I needed to start meeting people.

“You need to understand I thought I was the only gay evangelical woman in the world, which is terrible, but I was that cut off.

“When I read Vicky’s story, I realised she’d found quite a lot of counsel and comfort in Ruth Hunt, the head of Stonewall.”

Of her new beliefs, she said: “God is a God of surprises. We can never be sure of what the future may bring, but what I do know is that He will always look to transform our darkest hours into something beautiful.

“I’m personally thrilled to be able to serve Accepting Evangelicals during such an exciting and important time for us as a Church.”

Watch the interview below via Christian Today: