~from This is London
The BBC is to relay a 'gay Mass' from San Francisco this Sunday, the first time such a service has been broadcast.
The 50-minute Mass at the Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in the predominantly gay Castro district of the city will feature prayers and readings tailored for the gay community.
The church has been described as an "inspiration" to gay and lesbian Christians around the world because of its ministry to homosexuals.
Its parish priest, Father Stephen Meriweather, blesses participants in the San Francisco's annual gay pride march.
But it has also infuriated many Catholics in the U.S. who have complained about such activities as transvestite bingo nights during which sex toys and pornographic DVDs were handed out as prizes.
Last night a media watchdog said Sunday's radio broadcast was "bound to cause offence" to mainstream Christians.
John Beyer of Mediawatch UK, an organisation which campaigns for standards in the media, said he thought it was a mistake to broadcast the service.
"Religious broadcasting, apart from Songs of Praise, tends to focus on the out-of-the-ordinary and having this particular service I think will cause offence to people who feel that such practices are wrong and are taught as such in holy scripture," Mr Beyer said.
"The BBC really ought to be focusing on mainstream services which are more in keeping with the public service requirement that it has."
However, Father Donal Godfrey, the U.S. Jesuit priest celebrating the Mass, said he was delighted the BBC was "exploring how gay people fit into the perspective of the Christian narrative".
"Being gay is not special," he said. "It's simply another gift from God who created us as rainbow people."
The recording will go out at 8.10am to two million listeners on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Worship programme.
The preacher will be James Alison - a homosexual British Catholic theologian and author of 'Is it ethical to be Catholic? - Queer perspectives'.
Weeks after the BBC finished recording the service last October, it emerged that a transvestite group calling themselves the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence regularly staged lewd and irreverent bingo nights on the church premises.
The San Francisco archdiocese-stopped the events when it was discovered that prizes of a sexual nature were being handed out by the group, who dress as nuns.
In the past members of the group have paraded naked through the city advertising a 'hunky Jesus' contest. Their motto is: 'Go and sin some more.'
A spokesman for BBC Radio 4 said: "The strength of Sunday Worship is its diversity. It aims to reflect a variety of Christian spiritualities, and for that reason, when editorially appropriate - on average about once a quarter - comes from outside the UK.
"Taking the theme "Finding a place in the Christian narrative" this programme comes from the largest and oldest predominantly gay area in the world, from a Catholic community which has an experienced and developed understanding of the issues of being gay and Christian.
"As far as we know this is the first time the subject of being gay and Christian has been explored by the programme."
The Roman Catholic Church holds that sex belongs in the context of heterosexual marriage and that gay sex is "objectively disordered".
However, it also teaches that homosexual orientation is not in itself sinful and that gays and lesbians must be treated with respect and be free from unjust discrimination.