One of the Church of England's senior bishops has acknowledged the Church may never agree on gay marriage, but said it may be possible for individual priests and bishops to be given 'discretion' as to the 'kind of welcome that can be offered' to gay people.
The Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Rev Paul Bayes, is to chair a new charity aimed at promoting greater acceptance of LGBT people by working with religious organisations around the world.
He has been named as chair of the Ozanne Foundation, whose director Jayne Ozanne is a high-profile Anglican activist for LGBT inclusivity. In July Ozanne introduced a motion to the CofE's General Synod calling for a ban on gay 'conversion therapy'.
The charity's trustees and council of reference include the Dean of St Paul's, David Ison, Rev Steve Chalke, Ben Bradshaw MP and the Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John.
It will advocate for LGBTI and gender rights around the world, particularly within religious organisations opposed to non-heterosexual relationships. It will also seek to foster good relations inside religious organisations that hold conflicting views on sexuality and gender issues, of which the CofE is an example.
Bayes said: 'The Church of England has committed herself to what our Archbishops have called radical new Christian inclusion, and has publicly stated that we are against all forms of homophobia. If we mean this, and I believe we do, then we need to find appropriate ways of welcoming and affirming LGBTI people who want their love recognised by the Church.'
At present CofE churches are banned by law from hosting same-sex marriages and leading evangelical churches like St Helen's Bishopsgate have indicated they will consider distancing themselves from the Church if it permits them.
Bayes said: 'I always regret when anybody tries to put barriers down to leave the church to set up separate organisations because I think the right way forward is for people to stay in the same room and stay talking.'
He said: 'I think we should stick together and keep on talking and find ways of accommodating ourselves to each other.'
Bayes acknowledged progress toward agreement could be 'frustratingly slow' and that it might prove impossible to reconcile conflicting views. However, he expressed the hope that 'we can have a Church, not where everybody agrees, but where it will be possible for discretion to be exercised by local clergy and by local bishops as to the kind of welcome that can be offered to people. That's the prize that seems to me to be worth fighting for, and I remain committed to that.'
The CofE and the worldwide Anglican Communion have been riven by conflict around attitudes to homosexuality and gay marriage. GAFCON has set up as an alternative, conservative rival to traditional global Anglican structures and the Anglican Mission in England provides an alternative to the Church of England for conservative parishes.