Bishop welcomes gay support group

SUFFOLK'S most senior cleric is helping launch a gay Christian support group in a move that has sparked strong reactions among some worshippers.The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, will launch the Gay Christian Support Group when he is the keynote speaker at the new Suffolk branch of Changing Attitude.

By John Howard

SUFFOLK'S most senior cleric is helping launch a gay Christian support group in a move that has sparked strong reactions among some worshippers.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese, will launch the Gay Christian Support Group when he is the keynote speaker at the new Suffolk branch of Changing Attitude.

Changing Attitude is a worldwide group that works for gay and lesbian affirmation within the Anglican communion and Bishop Richard is one of the organisation's 13 episcopal patrons.


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He will be joined at the launch meeting by the Rev Sally Rogers, a development worker for the campaign, who will talk about her work.

A spokesman for the bishop said last night: “This is a subject that is close to his heart. Lesbian and gay Christians have made, and will continue to make, an important contribution to the work of the Church, not just in this county, but across the country.

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“As patron of the Changing Attitude group he is delighted that Suffolk is launching its own branch, adding to the 22 already in existence.

“The fact that Changing Attitudes is operational in itself means that it has already helped people to believe that they are not alone, and not excluded.”

One of the meeting's organisers is the Rev Andrew Dotchin, vicar of Whitton church, Ipswich, who said: “Many Christians are unhappy about the way lesbian and gay people are treated by society and some parts of the Church.

“The aim of our group is to provide support and comfort for lesbian and gay people and their family and friends.

“We also offer resources to help people explore the relationship between the scriptures, the Church and people of varied sexual orientations.

“Just getting this far and organising a first meeting has already helped so many people realise they are not alone and that they have friends and supporters within the Church.”

But Brian Langston, pastor of the Needham Market Evangelical Church, said homosexuality is a sin in the same way that adultery and theft is.

Mr Langston, who stressed that he was not criticising the group because it was the first he had heard of it, said there was no doubt in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong.

He said: “Everybody is for supporting homosexuals, in advising them. We are supportive of that, we are not homophobic. I am not against this group, I do not know what they stand for.

“All we are saying is that in the Bible, homosexuality is a sin. Many people deny this, but it is so plain. It's the same as adultery or theft.

“We base our belief on scripture. The Bible is the complete word of God, given by God, and you can't go changing it or updating it.''

Changing Attitude has groups in more than half the dioceses of the Church of England and has sister organisations in Scotland and New Zealand. It is open to anyone interested or concerned about the rights of gay people within the Church.

n The diocesan branch will meet for the first time at 2pm on March 11 at the St Mary and St Botolph church in Whitton, Ipswich.

More details are available from the Rev Andrew Dotchin on 01473 741389, or from Julie Clifford on 01473 718055.

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