frgavin on July 25th, 2012

Don’t let Church of England’s reluctance to embrace reform put you off God, Dr Jeffrey John tells gay people

Dr Jeffrey John

Dr Jeffrey John says gay couples are ­evidently just as capable of the kind of love needed in marriage as heterosexuals. Photograph: PA

The most senior openly gay cleric in Britain has attacked the Church of England for failing to “speak with integrity” on the question of same sex marriage, telling gay people they should not let the institution’s reluctance to embrace reform put them off God.

In an outspoken video message recorded for the Out4Marriage campaign, the dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John, said he was “very glad” the government is proposing to legalise gay marriage by 2015. But, he said, he was sad the church has set itself against it, adding it “doesn’t deserve to be listened to” on the subject, which has caused much internal division.

“If you are gay, please don’t judge God by the church. The official church doesn’t speak with integrity on this issue and so, frankly, doesn’t deserve to be listened to,” he says.

“If you are gay, then please understand that God made you as you are, and loves you as you are, and if you invite Him into your relationship, then of course He will bless you and sustain your love just as much as He blesses and sustains any other marriage. I know that’s true from my own experience and that’s why I’m Out4Marriage, because I’m sure God is too.”

John, who is in a celibate civil partnership with his partner of decades, has had his path to the episcopate effectively blocked by conservatives in the church who object to his homosexuality. He became dean of St Albans in 2004 after an attempt to make him bishop of Reading fell through amid uproar from his critics.

In his video, he said gay couples are evidently just as capable of the kind of love needed in marriage as heterosexuals. He adds: “It’s true that a gay couple can’t have children together, but then again neither can a heterosexual couple if they are infertile or past the age of childbearing. The Church has never refused to marry a heterosexual couple that can’t have children, so why refuse gay couples?”

Last month, the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said the church needed to confront feelings of embarrassment, shame and disgust over homosexuality. He told an event at Lambeth Palace: “What’s frustrating is that we still have Christian people whose feelings about it are so strong, and sometimes so embarrassed and ashamed and disgusted, that that just sends out a message of unwelcome, of lack of understanding, of lack of patience.”

The government has consulted on proposals to legalise gay marriage, prompting the Church of England to deliver a stern warning that such plans would “alter the intrinsic nature” of marriage and could even endanger its status as the established Church. Supporters of reform accuse it of “scaremongering”.

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