A leading historian has called for the Church of England to accept gay partnerships among its clergy, instead of encouraging them to hide their sexuality or remain celibate.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at the University of Oxford and presenter of BBC4’s A History of Christianity, writes in the Guardian that while there has been a revolution in attitudes towards gay people in the UK, “the church has just stuck its fingers in its ears and chanted la-la-la”. He asks: “When will the Church of England wake up to what has become apparent to the rest of the nation?”

His comments come nearly a week after it was revealed that Jeffrey John, the most senior openly gay cleric in the church, was considering suing his employers for discrimination.

MacCulloch argues that “the Anglican communion has … imposed compulsory celibacy on a large section of its clergy: those who recognise they are predominantly gay in sexual orientation”. He also criticises the selection process for new priests, which he says is obsessed with the sexuality of candidates and “devotes an inordinate amount of time to quizzing them about it”.

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