We must listen to gay people more, says new bishop

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The newly appointed Bishop of Reading yesterday called for the Church of England to "listen more" to gay people.

Canon Stephen Cottrell, 45, is to accept the post after it was originally offered to the celibate gay cleric Canon Jeffrey John.

The resulting debate threatened to split the church, and Canon John later withdrew his acceptance after a high profile campaign against his appointment by Church of England- traditionalists.

Canon Cottrell, the former canon pastor and vice-dean of Peterborough Cathedral, who will be consecrated in May, called for more understanding of homosexuality in the church yesterday.

Church leaders have denied claims that the appointment of Canon Cottrell, a football-loving, married father-of-three, was based on his sexuality or designed to pour oil on troubled waters in the church.

His appointment was officially announced by Downing Street and has been approved by the Queen.

At a press conference yesterday at Reading Minster of St Mary the Virgin, he said he had feelings of trepidation and expectation about his new role. "I feel honoured that the church has put its trust in me but right now I feel daunted about what lies ahead but excited."

He said he was a friend of Canon John and had supported him but that he would keep to the church's official line on homosexuality and the appointment of bishops. "My view is that the church needs to listen more and speak less about the issue. We need to listen to what God is saying, what the scriptures are saying. We need to listen to gay and lesbian people in our church.

"The first challenge is to help the church look forward from what has been a difficult time over the past few months."

He added that he supported the appointment of women clergy and saw the advent of women bishops as "inevitable".

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