A senior Anglican bishop is set to preside at an LGBT Eucharist in January to "offer a safe space" to gay worshippers.
The Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, Bishop of Gloucester, will celebrate the ceremony set up by Inclusive Church, a LGBT-affirming network of Anglicans, the group reports. It is thought to be the first time a senior diocesan bishop has led an LGBT communion and prompted concern from conservative Anglicans.
A spokeswoman for the Gloucester Diocese confirmed Treweek would preside and said: "As part of Bishop Rachel's ministry she celebrates the Eucharist in many churches across her diocese, to worship will fellow Christians who are all loved and valued by God."
Simon Sarmiento, spokesman for Inclusive Church, said the regular services which are already held in the Manchester and Liverpool dioceses are about "reaching out to a group that largely feels people aren't reaching out to them".
He told Christian Today: "These things are not under the counter or peculiar in any way. It is purely a pastoral activity. It is all about safe spaces."
But Revd James Paice, from the conservative grouping GAFCON UK, said Treweek's involvement "is sending a very confused message".
He told Christian Today: "We say one thing about morality but here we are celebrating something else." Paice, part of the GAFCON UK Taskforce, said although the Church insisted it had not changed its teaching, the realities on the ground were different.
He added if the CofE was serious about sticking to teachings laid down in a landmark 1998 resolution on sexuality known as Lambeth 1.10, "then actually we should be doing other things than having LGBT Eucharists".
Inclusive Church's local representative in the Gloucester diocese, Revd Sue Greatorex, said she was looking forward to Treweek presiding at the Eucharist. She said of the services: "They are aimed at the LGBTI community to give them a safe space to be themselves and worship together."
She added traditional Anglican liturgy would be used.
The service, to be held at St Bartholomew's Church, Gloucestershire, on 15 January is one of a number of regular LGBT Eucharists already running across the UK.
Treweek's move comes as the Church of England is considering its next steps over teaching on same-sex marriage. The Pilling Report in 2013, which Treweek advised on, recommended a form of "pastoral accomodation" where clergy would be allowed to offer services to welcome gay relationships. No such move has yet been made by the Church.