One of the most senior bishops in the Church of England has called for it to offer blessing services for gay couples in civil partnerships.
Bishop Jones, like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, comes from the evangelical wing of the church, which has been at the forefront of maintaining a traditional line on issues such as gay marriage.
But he said future historians would find it “extraordinary” that taking a strong line homosexuality is considered by many to be the “litmus test” of loyalty to true Christian teaching.
He questioned whether the current prohibition was a Christian approach, asking whether it was tenable for the Church to “deny the blessing of God to that which is just” any longer.
Liberals have long argued for the Established Church to offer religious blessings to couples forming civil partnerships but conservatives believe it would go against the teaching of the Bible Bishop Jones is by far the most senior figure to call for a radical rethink on the issue.
“Over the years I have shared with you my thinking about how the Gospel of embrace may be felt by those who are gay.” He continued: “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.”
But he stopped short of endorsing gay marriage, explaining: “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.” Yet he added that historians in the 22nd Century 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.”