The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes, has ramped up pressure on the Church of England to allow clergy to bless same-sex relationships by making the controversial call for a "gender neutral marriage canon".
The call comes in advance of elections to the governing body, the General Synod, where evangelicals are seeking to increase numbers in a bid to protect the doctrine of the Church.
Speaking to a national conference on Saturday for revisionist activists in the CofE, Bishop Bayes said: "I want to see a gender-neutral marriage canon, such as they have in the Episcopal Church (in the US) or in the Scottish Episcopal Church.
"And as a necessary but not sufficient first step I want to see conscientious freedom for the Church's ministers and local leaders to honour, recognise and, yes indeed, to bless same-sex unions whether civil partnerships or civil marriages."
Bishop Bayes was addressing the Movement of Supporting Anglicans for an Inclusive Church (MoSAIC) , which launched in February.
The group announced: "The movement aims to have a presence in each diocese of the Church of England, where it will work with local clergy and laity on projects that promote inclusion for all those who are currently marginalised by the Church of England – whether that be due to race, ability, sexuality, gender or gender identity."
Bishop Bayes told the national conference: "I want to see an abolition of the foolishness that sees the call to ordained ministry as a call to a state morally higher than that of the baptised, as though baptism called us to a lesser holiness.
"I want to see an end to LGBTQ+ people hiding who they are for fear of being exposed to conversion therapy or to being forbidden to minister in churches. I want to see an end to the inquisition of ordinands about their private lives."
Elections for members of the General Synod, the CofE's governing body, are due to take place in the autumn. The five-yearly elections were postponed from 2020 due to the Covid crisis.
Flagging up the upcoming elections, Bishop Bayes told MoSAIC activists: "Inclusion is seamless, and I think MoSAIC understands that. So I want to see more people like you, and to encourage you, and to share with you the task of holding these values before the Church, and before the electors to the General Synod, and in the end before the world."
Evangelicals worried about the direction of the Church of England are equally conscious of the elections. The Evangelical Group of the General Synod (EGGS) has been working hard this last year to increase evangelical representation.
A campaign leaflet from the group spells out the importance: "If you believe that it is important to maintain the historic, orthodox beliefs and practices of the Church, then the General Synod is very relevant to you and your parish. It is vital that this voice is clearly heard in the forthcoming elections in 2021, as the future of our Church might well be decided in the 5 years after 2021."
On the agenda for the upcoming July Synod is a presentation on the Living in Love and Faith (LLF) resources on marriage, sexuality and gender identity, which sparked a war of words when they were first launched late last year, and which are being discussed across the Church of England nationally this year.