The incoming Archbishop of York believes biblical teaching on sexuality should come second to 21st century Western cultural beliefs.
Stephen Cottrell is currently the Bishop of Chelmsford and will take over from Dr John Sentamu next year to become the second most senior clergyman in the Church of England.
Bishop Cottrell made his comments on the Bible in 2017 as he welcomed the Archbishops of Canterbury and York’s plea for a “radical new Christian inclusion”.
He said it would be wrong to ignore the “damage” that is done by rejecting Western society’s current view of human sexuality.
“I am not sure the church has ever before had to face the challenge of being seen as immoral by the culture in which it is set.”
He also claimed, in the same address to leaders in his own diocese, that taking a biblical view on same-sex relationships “can legitimise homophobia in others”.
While Bishop Cottrell did acknowledge biblical passages spoke about the issue, he said they were merely “part of our story and our inheritance”.
“But what we can do is recognise that what we know now about human development and human sexuality requires us to look again at those texts to see what they are actually saying to our situation, for what we know now is not what was known then.”
The future Archbishop also said there was “no reason” why thanksgiving prayers or a communion service could not be offered for civil partnerships.
The doctrine of the Church of England, as enshrined in a 1987 General Synod Motion, is that homosexual acts should be repented of. This is further underlined by the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution which opposes the “legitimising or blessing of same sex unions”.
Following the announcement, Bishop Cottrell said he was “humbled and excited at the prospect of becoming the 98th Archbishop of York”.