Reverend Richard Coles has said it is “frustrating” that the Church of England is resisting giving the LGBT community equal status but we “should not shirk a difficult task if what’s at stake is justice and human dignity”.
he celebrity vicar, whose civil partner David died in 2019, said the Church “is behind even professional football”.
Speaking as he promotes his first novel, Murder Before Evensong, Coles, 60, told the PA news agency: “The big battle for LGBT people in the Church of England has been trying to get for us the equal treatment that the rest of the world is used to.
“We’ve heard the remarkable story of the 17-year-old footballer coming out, the first pro-footballer to do it while still having a career since Justin Fashanu.
“Credit to Jake Daniels, it’s an amazing thing and lots of people have said it’s long overdue that football should have taken so long to welcome its first openly gay player.
“Lots of us who are LGBT are in the Church but the Church at the moment resists giving us equal status which you would expect and enjoy anywhere else.
“That can be frustrating sometimes. I don’t want to pretend it’s just an easy matter, it’s not. It requires a lot of people to come a long way.
“But we should not shirk a difficult task if what’s at stake is justice and human dignity.”
Coles, who was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2017, said he has been fighting this fight for more than 40 years and is a “bit weary” of it.
He said: “Churches are notoriously slow to move because we tend to walk to a different beat to everybody else and also we have a long heritage.
“We have 2,000 years behind us which we reflect on daily, that doesn’t bother me so much… it’s when it moves in reverse that it bothers me.
“A lot of the arguments at the moment are being made by people in the Church who take a very conservative view and think that there is no version of the Church in which LGBT people should be treated equally with everybody else.
“I’ve been fighting this fight for more than 40 years and I’m a bit weary of it actually, and part of me doesn’t really want to engage with that fight any more because I’ve been round it so many times.
“I just want to live my life with the people I love and care about and enjoy.”
This year Coles announced his retirement as a parish priest in Finedon in Northamptonshire in April after 11 years, and moved to Sussex.
“I loved being a parish priest, I never found questions about sexuality got in the way of being a parish priest,” he said.
“It’s more the institutional level. As an incumbent of the Church of England I was under a discipline, and that’s quite right, but now perhaps I’m able to speak more freely about these matters than I was when I was in post.
“I certainly don’t want to leave the Church of England and I certainly don’t want to stop ministering as a priest, but I don’t particularly want to have to uphold aspects of its life which I think are not consistent with our calling to truth and justice and human dignity.
“I think everything will be all right in the end, it just might be a while before we get to the end, I’m full of hope.”
– Murder Before Evensong will be published on June 9.