Liverpool Anglican Bishop James Jones has broken ranks with other senior Church of England clergy to call for blessing services to be offered to same-sex couples in civil partnerships.
‘Over the years I have shared with you my thinking about how the gospel of embrace may be felt by those who are gay,’ Jones said in an address to the Diocese of Liverpool Synod.
‘If the Church now recognizes 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.’
Jones added that historians a hundred years from now would be astounded that the current ‘litmus test of orthodoxy centered on whether or not one had a generous attitude to those who are gay,’ – referring to the current debate over homosexuality in the church.
However Jones stopped short of endorsing church marriages for same-sex couples.
‘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,’ Jones said.
Jones had been one of a number of senior Anglicans to call for the Very Rev Jeffrey John to stand aside after he was appointed to the role of Bishop of Reading in 2003.
John was openly gay and in a long term committed but celibate relationship with the Rev Grant Holmes – also an Anglican priest – and his appointment to the role sent shockwaves through the Global Anglican Communion.
However Jones, who is due to retire next year, has since apologized to John and has revised his views of LGBT issues in the church.
The new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, appointed in November has called for an end to homophobia in the church and to ‘carefully and prayerfully’ consider the issue of same-sex marriage, though he personally opposes it.