Reverend Richard Coles blasts Church of England for being ‘behind pro football’ on LGBTQ+ equality

Lily Wakefield June 11, 2022
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Reverend Richard Coles

Reverend Richard Coles. (Getty for St John Ambulance/ Mike Marsland)

Gay Church of England priest, author and TV personality Reverend Richard Coles has blasted the church for being even behind professional football when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality.

Despite overwhelming support for LGBTQ+ inclusion among Anglicans in the UK, the Church of England does not perform same-sex marriages and refuses to bless same-sex civil unions. LGBTQ+ clergy members are allowed to be in same-sex relationships, but are forced to remain celibate to retain their positions.

Speaking to the Huffington Post ahead of the release of his new mystery novel Murder Before Evensong, he said: “The big battle for LGBTQ+ people in the Church of England has been trying to get for us the equal treatment that the rest of the world is used to.

“We’ve heard the remarkable story of the 17-year-old footballer coming out, the first pro-footballer to do it while still having a career since Justin Fashanu.”

Jake Daniels, who plays forward for Blackpool, publicly announced he was gay last month, making the first active professional player to come out since Fashanu in 1990, who later died by suicide after racing relentless homophobia and racism.

“Credit to Jake Daniels, it’s an amazing thing and lots of people have said it’s long overdue that football should have taken so long to welcome its first openly gay player,” said Coles.

“Lots of us who are LGBTQ+ are in the church, but the church at the moment resists giving us equal status which you would expect and enjoy anywhere else.

“That can be frustrating sometimes. I don’t want to pretend it’s just an easy matter, it’s not. It requires a lot of people to come a long way. But we should not shirk a difficult task if what’s at stake is justice and human dignity.”

Coles described it as “depressing” that, while the football world was evolving, “the Church of England – an organisation committed to celebrating love and decency and dignity – finds itself unable to do so when people are of the same sex”.

Reverend Richard Coles is ‘weary’ after fighting for queer inclusion for decades

Reverend Richard Coles acknowledged that “churches are notoriously slow to move”, but said that he has become “weary” of fighting for LGBTQ+ inclusion.

“A lot of the arguments at the moment are being made by people in the Church who take a very conservative view and think that there is no version of the Church in which LGBTQ+ people should be treated equally with everybody else,” he said.

“I’ve been fighting this fight for more than 40 years and I’m a bit weary of it actually, and part of me doesn’t really want to engage with that fight any more because I’ve been round it so many times.

“I just want to live my life with the people I love and care about and enjoy.”

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