Bishop joins 300 Anglicans backing US Church's plans for gender-neutral wedding service

A prominent bishop and 300 other Anglicans have backed the US Episcopal Church's stance on same-sex marriage, saying it shows the Church is 'not as homophobic as it can sometimes appear'.

They have signed an 'alternative' letter to one sent by the Church of England's general secretary, William Nye, that warned American Anglicans could face 'stringent consequences' if it went ahead with plans for a gender neutral wedding service. He added such a move would increase pressure for the CofE to 'disassociate' itself from its US counterpart.

Diocese of OxfordAlan Wilson, 62, is bishop of Buckingham and has been an outspoken critic of the Church of England's approach to sexuality.

The Episcopal Church (TEC) in America permits same-sex marriage, unlike the Church of England and most other provinces in the 80 million-strong Anglican Communion around the world.

Nye's original letter has sparked a fierce backlash from pro-LGBT Anglicans in the UK and more than 300 have signed a different note thanking TEC for 'leading the way on this important issue'.

The bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, joined 30 of the ruling general synod's 483 members, as well as other clergy and churchgoers, to dissociate themselves from Nye's letter.

They added they 'are expecting "stringent consequences" as a result of his actions'.

'We still have a few problems to sort out over here with those who keep threatening to leave, but we know that your actions have given great hope to thousands and shown that the Church is not as homophobic as it can sometimes appear,' they wrote.

Jayne Ozanne, a prominent LGBT activist on the CofE's synod, orginally wrote the 'alternative' letter for her blog saying she was 'unsure' who had signed off on Nye's orginal. 

'It would be strange if it were sent with the knowledge and support of the Archbishops given their firm commitment to "radical Christian inclusion" and their understanding of the need to be pastorally sensitive to the LGBT community, neither of which area mentioned in the letter,' she said. 

It comes after a separate lobby group responded to Nye's letter saying it was met with 'anger, frustration and disappointment'.

One Body One Faith, which calls for a more accepting attitude to LGBT relationships in the Church of England, described the American Church's decision as 'brave and costly'. It added the Church was being judged and found 'sorely wanting' for its attitude to same-sex couples.

'No-one is attracted to a group of Christians who profess the love of Christ but seem incapable of recognising it in the loving, committed relationships of two people. These matters are not disconnected,' a letter to Nye signed by the group's chair Canon Peter Leonard and chief executive Tracey Byrne said.

'We continue to look forward to a day when we are able to recognise love as just that. It is love which reveals the love of Christ, wherever we encounter it: in and between human beings, in all their diversity.'

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