A FORMER man of the cloth has spoken out about how he attempted suicide after he was bullied for being gay.

Revd Chris Colledge was medically retired from his work as a chaplain 15 years ago after he tried to overdose on sleeping tablets and booze because "the church didn't want to know" he was gay.

Now, in the wake of a major discussion set to take place at the General Synod on same-sex relationships after a report emerged claiming the church was driving homosexual people to suicide, the former Bournemouth-based vicar has spoken of his experiences.

"This coming week the Church of England's governing body, General Synod, will debate as to whether people who are gay should be allowed to be married in church," he said. "The church has created this situation because it would not even recognise couples in gay relationships by not welcoming them into its doors for a blessing. It is acceptable to bless buildings and battleships but not two people of the same sex who love each other. The basis of my faith is 'God is Love and those who live in Love live in God and God lives in them'.

"After the breakdown I was hospitalised after trying to take my own life with an overdose of sleeping tablets and alcohol because the Church authorities did not want to know me.

"It is only in recent years that I have endeavoured to even want to conduct any kind of ministry again. Daily medication means that I have the ability to function and hopefully contribute to various community responsibilities."

Revd Colledge finished conducting services at St Francis in Charminster in December after a new minister was appointed.

"I am an openly gay person and the pain, rejection and attitude of the church is still something which is distressing and hard to live with," he added.

"Sadly I know only too well that the Church's attitude to people who are gay is one of discrimination and unkindness and as if they are lepers and outcasts."

Christian charity Oasis has warned that churches must take "a disproportionate share of the blame" for any mental issues suffered by people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Revd Colledge said: "Oasis has reported that Churches are driving gay people to suicide because of their negative and discriminatory attitude towards same-sex relationships. Oasis goes on to say that 'tragically, it is also common knowledge that the resultant anguish and distress often leads to spiritual, mental and physical harm, and in the worst cases to people making the desperate decision to take their own life'.

"I do hope my personal story, as painful as it is to relay, assists others with such mental health issues."