One of the country's most senior Anglican bishops came a step closer to endorsing gay marriage after he called for the ban on same-sex partnership blessings to be lifted.
The outgoing Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Rev James Jones, said it was time for the church to consider the blessing of civil partnerships. "We've come to a time now that if we believe that civil partnerships are just then we can't withhold the blessing of God from that which we believe to be just," he said.
Although the remarks fell short of endorsing gay marriage they will nonetheless embolden campaigners. The Church of England has previously ruled out offering blessings to same-sex couples.
Last night Rev James said: "The Church believes there is a difference between marriage and civil partnership, between heterosexual union and same gender intimacy." He told ITV's News at Ten: "While maintaining that difference I personally hope that the Church will find a way to offering the blessing of God on the love of gay people in a civil partnership and in a committed stable relationship."
His intervention comes in wake of a report from the Anglican Church's Faith and Order Commission yesterday that ruled out same-sex blessings.