A Church of England church in Manchester has hosted a controversial play that portrays Jesus as a transsexual.
The play is performed by a transsexual writer and is entitled: The Gospel According to Jesus, Queen of Heaven.
It featured in a publicly-funded LGBT event in Northern Ireland last year where it attracted criticism from Christian leaders.
The writer – Jo Clifford, who was formerly known as John Clifford – has previously told the BBC that he had no interest in “being blasphemous or offensive”.
The latest hosting of the production was at St Chrysostom’s church in Manchester. It reportedly sees Clifford speaking about God as female.
But former Church of England Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali responded: “It is quite clear from the Gospels that the identity of Jesus is male, his ‘mum’ is Mary and he always refers to God as ‘Father’, so to suggest otherwise is contrary to Christian teaching.”
The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge, told the Mail on Sunday that he was surprised that a church was hosting the “irreverent” play.
An unnamed senior Church of England minister told the newspaper that the play was “wholly inappropriate” for a church, adding that people would be looking to the Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, to take action.
But the bishop has said that the responsibility for the play appearing in the church “clearly lies solely with the local minister”.
He commented that he “cannot support this particular performance” and has “urged that consideration be given to transferring it to a less contentious venue”.
The bishop added that the stance, “in no way weakens the support I and my colleagues continue to give to the transgendered members of our community and our churches”.
The play formed part of the Queer Contact Festival and was described by organisers as a “humane, mischievous and loving show” including familiar stories “reimagined by a transgender Jesus”.
When the play was shown in Northern Ireland last year, church leaders from across Belfast stressed that biblical teaching “clearly portrays Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God”.
And in 2009 around 300 Christians protested outside the Tron Theatre in Glasgow as the play was due to be aired there. They held up placards reading: “Jesus, King of Kings, Not Queen of Heaven”.