Coronation Street will introduce a gay vicar storyline from December, in a move it claims will represent a “very modern relationship”.
Billy, played by Daniel Brocklebank, will start a romance with Sean Tully – the soap’s longest running gay character.
Producer Stuart Blackburn said: “Billy is a great guy who is sincere about his feelings for Sean but his first love is and always will be God and the Church.
“We will be exploring this very modern relationship in the coming months and are delighted to have Daniel on board to play Billy.”
The Christian Institute’s Simon Calvert said the programme’s actions were disappointing but not surprising.
“Coronation Street never seem to put churchmen like those you and I know on the show. They go out of their way to squeeze LGBT storylines in, but how often do we have an evangelical minister sympathetically portrayed?
“Sadly this is more evidence of soaps getting ever more detached from reality.”
Coronation Street has come under fire for its portrayal of gay characters before. At one point it featured two lesbians, four homosexual men and a transsexual.
In 2011 former Corrie star Nick Cochrane said the numbers involved were “unrealistic”.
He said: “Would one road in a working class area generally produce that number of gay people?”
Jean Alexander – who played Hilda Ogden for 23 years – has said three homosexual storylines were “excessive”.
And TV personality Brian Sewell, himself bisexual, said soaps were being used as “sexual propaganda”.
Following criticism on the issue, Phil Collinson, one of the soap’s producers at the time, denied there was a “gay agenda”, saying, “we’re just telling stories about love”.
However, he had previously said that he used the show as a platform for pushing homosexual issues.
In 2012 official figures showed only 1.5 per cent in the UK were gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The Office for National Statistics questioned hundreds of thousands of people in the research.