A GAY man who lost a Church job because of his sexuality has won a tribunal against the Bishop of Hereford.

In a move which could have major repercussions on the Church of England, an employment tribunal has confirmed that John Reaney was discriminated against by the Rt. Rev Anthony Priddis.

Mr Reaney looked set to become a youth officer in the Diocese of Hereford after impressing an eight-strong panel during an interview last summer.

The 41-year-old from north Wales was called an "inspirational" and "tireless worker" by his peers, and was passionate about working with young people within the confines of the church.

But, despite impressive credentials and the recommendations of the panel, he was turned down by the Bishop after he quizzed Mr Reaney on a former gay relationship.

That, according to Mr Reaney and gay lobby group, Stonewall, constituted discrimination and, following a lengthy employment tribunal in Cardiff earlier this year, his claim has been successful.

Although at a press conference yesterday (Wednesday), the Diocese hinted it would appeal, it is likely to have to pay substantial damages to Mr Reaney, who previously held a similar post in the Diocese of Chester. He and Stonewall argued that a heterosexual person would not have faced the same treatment during a two hour interview which left the complainant in tears.

"I'm delighted that the Bishop of Hereford has lost this case," said Mr Reaney in a statement released yesterday (Wednesday). "It demonstrates to many lesbian and gay Christians working for God within the Church of England that they are entitled to fair and respectful treatment."

Stonewall backed and funded Mr Reaney's case following an approach last autumn, and chief executive Ben Summerskill was equally delighted.

"This outcome is a triumph for 21st century decency over 19th century prejudice," he said. "The tribunal has rightly made clear that the Church of England cannot discriminate against gay people with impunity.

"No-one, not even a Bishop, is exempt from the law."

The crux of the Bishop's decision rested on a five-year gay relationship which Mr Reaney had ended four months before the interview.

Despite Mr Reaney's promises of celibacy and self-control, the Bishop believed the situation would change.

The Bishop told the press conference he was "disappointed" with the outcome but insisted his decision was the right one and was not clouded by lifestyle.

"He had been living in a committed same-sex relationship for five years and that ended shortly before I met him," he said at a press conference.

"I took the view that anyone who has been in a committed relationship of that kind for five years will be in a position of loss, grief and bereavement.

"If he had been a heterosexual person with a five-year relationship outside marriage then I still wouldn't have appointed him because that's not the teaching of the Church."