Conservative vicar calls on bishop to 'repent' over thanksgiving for gay couples

A Conservative Anglican vicar is calling on his bishop to repent for saying the Church's view on sexuality was 'morally unacceptable'.

Rev Steven Hanna, of St Elisabeth, Becontree, said his church 'could not in good conscience' attend an upcoming conference organised by Bishop Steven Cottrell after he called for thanksgiving prayers for gay couples.

Rev Steven Hanna, vicar of St Elisabeth Brecontree, will not attend a training session organised by the bishop.BBC

In a presidential address Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell said the Church of England was seen as 'immoral' for its refusal to welcome gay marriage and said it should reach an 'agree to disagree' compromise over gay marriage as it had done over women's ordination.

'It would be particularly foolish for us to ignore the missiological damage that is done when that which is held to be morally normative and desirable by much of society and by what seems to be a significant number of Anglican Christian people in this country, is deemed morally unacceptable by the Church. As I have said before, I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set,' he said in an address to Chelmsford's local diocesan synod.

But Hanna said his bishop had 'not said clearly what we believe he should have said' and called on him and other bishops to repent.

'We disagree that it is damaging to mission to proclaim biblical and traditional views on marriage and faithful sexual relations only within the boundaries of traditional marriage,' he said in a statement on Monday.

'We believe to proclaim this is consistent with Christ's gospel. We believe it is faithful to being Christ's disciples and faithful to His mission and not damaging to it, even if many do not like that message. Not to proclaim this, we believe, is unfaithful.

'We call all our bishops to public repentance - both for what they have said publicly and for what they needed to say clearly but haven't publicly said.'

It comes amid growing friction within the CofE as it wrestles over the next steps on sexuality.

A report that held a predominantly conservative line on gay marriage was rejected by the ruling general synod in February. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York responded to the unprecedented defeat by calling for a 'radical new Christian inclusion' for gay couples in the Church.

But conservative factions have hinted they could switch their loyalties, and more importantly their financial support, away from the CofE as they perceive a liberal shift.

GAFCON, a traditionalist grouping of mainly African primates, has called for a 'new vision' for the Anglican Communion.

'Despite its enduring historical symbolism, Canterbury can no longer be the defining centre, but through the Gafcon movement a growing number of faithful Anglicans are now recovering their true identity in the gospel itself as the Bible is restored to its rightful place at the heart of the Communion.'