Spokespeople from a range of Christian organisations rallied to support a civil partnership storyline in long-running cult BBC radio soap opera 'The Archers' today - after Stephen Green of fringe group Christian Voice announced that the very thought made him 'queasy'.
'The Archers', set in the fictional village of Ambridge, has many millions of fans across the world. In a special edition tonight (14 December 2006), soap's longest running gay romance will culminate in a pledge of commitment involving Adam Macy (Andrew Wincott) and Ian Craig (Stephen Kennedy). The love story began with a kiss in April 2004.
But Pinknews.co.uk, Europe's largest gay news service, reports that Stephen Green of Christian Voice (who came to public notice in protests against Jerry Springer The Opera) has expressed revulsion at the notion of a committed gay relationship.
He told the agency: "Personally, seeing a picture of actors Andrew Wincott and Stephen Kennedy dressed up in wedding suits holding their glasses of fizz made me feel quite queasy. It brought home the enormity of the nauseating pretence and perversion of a real wedding which every 'civil partnership' is."
However Mr Green's views are described as homophobic and fear-filled by lesbian and gay Christian groups, and his confrontational tactics have been criticised in the past by the United Reformed Church, the Church of England and many mainstream Christian groups.
The Rev Dr Giles Fraser of InclusiveChurch.Net said that anti-gay rants bring dishonour to the Gospel. And Fr Richard Jenkins, from the Anglican network Affirming Catholicism, told PinkNews.co.uk: "Mr Green is not the only Christian voice. The Christian instinct of most people is to be open and respectful of other views."
Added Jonathan Bartley, director of Christian policy think-tank Ekklesia: "Christian Voice makes an extremely unhelpful contribution to the public perception of Christianity. It portrays the faith as judgmental and bigoted. But many Christians have resolved to affirm their acceptance of lesbian and gay people inside and outside the Church."
Co-director Simon Barrow said: "We wish Adam and Ian all the best for their ceremony in Ambridge tonight. When two people pledge to increase the amount of love, hope and faithfulness in the world this is something followers of Jesus should be happy to celebrate."
This is not the first time that 'The Archers' has been the subject of controversy. In the 1990s a storyline involving the formation of a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament group caused upset among some of its more traditional listeners.
But those associated with the programme are convinced that Adam and Ian's civil partnership will be accepted by the great majority of the show's followers, many of whom are practicing Christians.
Listeners can hear the ceremony tonight from 19.02 GMT on BBC Radio 4, available online for a week.
Addendum: The episode ended with a surprise marriage proposal at the after-ceremony party, involving two other characters from the show - indicating, says our culture correspondent, that fears about gay civil partnerships undermining heterosexual marriage may be significantly exaggerated.