Bishop welcomes practising homosexuals

By John HowardReligious Affairs CorrespondentONE of the region's bishops has said practising homosexuals are welcome in the Church of England.The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Richard Lewis, also criticised worshippers whom he claimed were using bullying tactics in their opposition to gay couples.

By John Howard

Religious Affairs Correspondent

ONE of the region's bishops has said practising homosexuals are welcome in the Church of England.

The Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Richard Lewis, also criticised worshippers whom he claimed were using bullying tactics in their opposition to gay couples.


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Bishop Richard was speaking about the issue that has caused controversy in the Anglican Church on the eve of tomorrow's diocesan synod in Woodbridge, when he will talk about homosexuality.

“Some people talk stridently about gay people, but have not met any gays, which I find very upsetting,” he said.

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“We are all human beings made in the image of God. You cannot have first or second-class citizens, that is a fundamental scriptural view.

“Not even the most right-wing Christian dare descend from that because then they would be saying that part of creation by God is second class.

“It is very clear there are a lot of solid, committed, long-term gay relationships. It's not to do with sexual promiscuity, but to do with people who love each other. Whatever else happens, we have got to come to terms with that fact of life.”

Bishop Richard said the Church was committed to listening to gay people and they were all, whatever their situation, welcome as part of the Christian Church.

He believed worshippers in Suffolk had been calm, sensitive and reflective about the issue, a picture not true elsewhere in the Church.

“It's very strange how all the debate has arisen with such fury. The debate could become a playground fight in which the bullies win,” said Bishop Richard.

“There is quite a lot of bullying going on in the Church. Threats of withdrawing money, threats of schism, bullying tactics.”

Bishop Richard said he had received more than 70 letters, phone calls and e-mails following the nomination of Canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading during the summer, with the majority in support of his appointment.

The priest was openly gay, although celibate, but decided to decline the position because he was afraid his appointment would harm the Church.

Internationally, the issue of homosexuality is also causing a furore within the Anglican community after the consecration of a gay bishop by the Allied Episcopal Church in the United States.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria has already refused to recognise the consecration of openly-gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.

The Evangelical Alliance UK has also said it was opposed to moves within some churches to accept or endorse sexually-active homosexual partnerships as a legitimate form of Christian relationship.

A spokeswoman said: “We repudiate homophobia insofar as it denotes an irrational fear or hatred of homosexuals. We do not accept, however, that to reject homoerotic sexual practice on biblical grounds is in itself homophobic.

“We affirm that monogamous heterosexual marriage is the only form of partnership approved by God for full sexual relations today.”

john.howard@eadt.co.uk

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