A Church of England vicar has promised to walk all the way to York to present his pro-gay marriage petition to the homophobic archbishop there, if it gets enough signatures.
Ian Stubbs is the Church of England parish priest at All Saints Parish Church in Glossop, a small town in the Peak District, a national park which runs down the backbone of Britain.
But from his small vicarage he hopes to create a revolution in church attitudes, taking on the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who has been outspoken against same-sex marriage.
He has launched a petition on Change.org which has already been backed by over 1,000 people in 24 hours. Hitting 2,000 signatures will prompt his unique pilgrimage.
It will take him at least 20 hours to cover the 60 miles, much of it over tough terrain.
Father Stubbs said: ‘Jesus teaches us to be loving and inclusive, nowhere does he say that same-sex relationships fall short of God’s purposes.
‘I am bitterly disappointed by the Church’s shameful and outdated response to the proposals for gay marriage, it shows a lack of moral courage and risks further undermining the credibility and relevance of the Church of England in modern life.
‘My congregation are accepting and compassionate people. My fear is that as the Church digs in its heels over progressive issues like this, it will become less relevant to ordinary people. I have spent 40 years working to engage people with the Christian faith, I will be furious if the refusal to let loving couples marry undermines that work.’
His words contrast sharply with those of Sentamu, who has been one of the most high-profile opponents of gay marriage equality in the UK.
Sentamu said: ‘I don’t think it is the role of the state to define what marriage is. It is set in tradition and history and you can’t just [change it] overnight, no matter how powerful you are.
‘We’ve seen dictators do it in different contexts and I don’t want to redefine very clear social structures that have been in existence for a long time and then overnight the state believes it could go in a particular way.’
It’s a response to overwhelming public opinion in favor of the move, including 58% of British people of faith who support the government’s actions.
But the change would not affect religious marriage ceremonies – they are excluded from the proposls and there are no plans to force churches to wed lesbian and gay couples.
Insiders report, however, that the majority of responses to the consultation so far have been from religious opponents of equality, encouraged by a well-funded campaign.
Completing the consultation can be done in less than five minutes and only a little over a day remains to do so – it closes at 11.59pm UK time tomorrow (14 June). You can do it here.
On 8 July, All Saints Parish Church will be screening Love Free or Die, an American documentary about a gay Anglican bishop Gene Robinson who married his partner Mark Andrew.