CofE church offers new congregation for gay Christians

A new Church of England congregation especially for LGBTI Christians will be launched this summer in the Diocese of Lichfield.

The gathering, known as True North, will start in August in St Matthew's Walsall, where most of the leadership oppose gay marriage. It aims to provide "worship, mutual support and encouragement for Christians in the LGBTI community".

St Matthew's Walsall has become one of a number of CoE churches to offer specific LGBTI congregationsReuters

This is not the first time an Anglican church has set up a service specifically for gay Christians and comes after similar moves from churches in the Liverpool, Southwark and Manchester dioceses.

Rev Jim Trood, vicar of St Matthew's Walsall, is from the CofE's conservative wing and does not support same-sex marriage. Nevertheless he welcomed the move and said it is "absolutely right that we recognise and welcome this community".

"While I and many of the leadership of St Matthews hold a traditional view on human sexuality, LGBT Christians are first and foremost children of God and made in his image," he said.

The Bishop of Wolverhampton, Rt Revd Clive Gregory, also strongly supported the initiative.

"Enabling this congregation to meet is important and I am delighted to hear of St Matthew's offer of hospitality," he said.

"I understand why LGBTI Christians feel the need for a place to meet and worship where they can feel secure and supported in their God-given sexual identity. They will be very much part of our Diocese and I will look forward to worshipping with them in due course."

The congregation will be led by Rev Monica Arnold, associate minister at St Matthew's, and Rev Alastair Wood from Telford. Arnold said the service would provide for a need that had existed for a long time.

"While debate rages on, passionately, at the highest levels of the Church of England, LGBTI people continue to live with the realities of their daily life and the mixed reception many receive in parishes," she said. "An opportunity to worship and enjoy fellowship without hiding or denying a fundamental aspect of their identity is so important to all aspects of healthy life.

"Our intention with True North is to supplement and support LGBTI Christians to go out and serve the Lord in their own parishes and communities, knowing they are loved by God. We do not see this as a stand-alone event but one that is truly part of the body of Christ within Lichfield Diocese."

A spokesman for the CofE said the Church was engaged in a series of "shared conversations" on sexuality and would not make any comment until those conversations are completed.