Friday, 2 September 2016

Bishop of Grantham threatened with outing by Sunday newspaper

Updated Saturday afternoon

Harriet Sherwood in the Guardian has reported this:
Bishop of Grantham first C of E bishop to declare he is in gay relationship

The bishop of Grantham has become the first Church of England bishop to publicly declare that he is gay and in a relationship. In a move that will be embraced by campaigners for equality but is likely to alarm conservatives who fear the church is moving away from traditional teachings, Nicholas Chamberlain said there had been no secret about his long-term – albeit celibate – relationship with his partner.

But a threat by a Sunday newspaper to reveal Chamberlain’s sexuality had pushed him to speak publicly. He acknowledged that the revelation would cause “ripples” within the church. “It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out,” he told the Guardian in an exclusive interview. “People know I’m gay, but it’s not the first thing I’d say to anyone. Sexuality is part of who I am, but it’s my ministry that I want to focus on.”

The Guardian also has this comment article by Andrew Brown ‘Double standard’ in C of E on homosexuality is less defensible today.

The Church of England has been confused and dishonest about homosexuality for most of the last 50 years, as it struggled to come to terms with feminism and the sexual revolution. The official line is that all sex outside marriage is wrong, and that gay people can’t marry in church. However, the definition of marriage is flexible for straight people: the church accepts that divorce and remarriage can be regrettable necessities for heterosexuals, even when they are priests or (occasionally) bishops. Meanwhile, gay churchgoers are often welcomed and are frequently married or partnered. Congregations vary widely in their attitudes but are, for the most part, no more illiberal than the society around them.

In effect, there is one standard for the laity – which is to conform to the liberal norms of society – and a double standard for the clergy who are supposed to be celibate, even when they live with same sex partners, if not heterosexually married. It is perfectly in order for clergy and even bishops to be civilly partnered…

The Diocese of Lincoln has today (Saturday) published a letter sent out yesterday from the Bishop of Lincoln:

2 September 2016

Last year, Nicholas Chamberlain accepted the invitation to become the twelfth Bishop of Grantham. I was delighted that we were able to appoint a priest of his faithfulness, energy, wisdom and experience to this senior role at such an important time in the life of our diocese.

Bishop Nicholas has brought to the diocese many excellent gifts that are serving us very well as we seek to build the life of the church in greater Lincolnshire in faith, confidence and joy. It was for those many gifts that he was appointed. It was clear to me, and to those who assisted me with the appointment, that Nicholas would be an excellent bishop, and this has been borne out by the tremendous benefit we are already enjoying as a result of his ministry among us during the past year.

Bishop Nicholas’ appointment was made following the recommended and established procedures for suffragan posts, and was approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury (as metropolitan of the Province of Canterbury). The archbishop, and the members of the advisory panel, were in full possession of the facts of the appointment and unanimous in their support.

A story has been published on the Guardian website this evening about sexuality and the church. The same story will appear in the newspaper tomorrow, and it includes an interview with Bishop Nicholas in which he is open about the fact that he is gay. Bishop Nicholas gave this interview willingly and after much careful thought and prayer, and he did so with the express intention of acting in the best interests of the Diocese of Lincoln and of the Church of England.

I am satisfied now, as I was at the time of his appointment, that Bishop Nicholas fully understands, and lives by, the House of Bishops’ guidance on Issues in Human Sexuality. For me, and for those who assisted in his appointment, the fact that Bishop Nicholas is gay is not, and has never been, a determining factor.

I understand that in some parts of the church – locally, nationally and internationally – this news will be challenging. My prayer for the church is that we will continue to seek to work together to understand difference with respect and dignity; to embrace and nurture our diverse gifts as disciples of Jesus Christ and in the service of God and neighbour; and to enrich and enable fulfillment in the lives of all God’s people, whatever their background, race, faith, gender or sexuality.

With my thoughts and prayers,

The Right Reverend Christopher Lowson
Bishop of Lincoln

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 2 September 2016 at 8:39pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

I've never supported outing, and I don't support it now. It's intrusive and cruel. He's declared that he's celibate. He's not challenging church teaching. Conservatives can have no objection. Nothing will change as a result of this, beyond embarrassment to the bishop in question.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 1:20am BST

This ought to do it: Let's all kiss and make's been a very tiresome road to basic honesty vs. dreaded hostility against LGBTI Anglicans. Plus the REAL emotional/spiritual PAIN (more) inflicted on "known" Gay people at the Global South, Anglican Communion, is sometimes deadly...the Puritans have had their day shouting UNITY down, let´s drop the whole matter and roll over and play dead regarding who we kiss each good-night before bed. DO NOT DISTURB!

Posted by: Leonard Clark on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 4:00am BST

Does this mean that at long last and long over due - the multi-talented and highly gifted Dean of St. Albans will be given his own diocese?

Posted by: Father David on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 4:55am BST

Perhaps the newspaper should be named and shamed.. though outing belongs to the News of the World circa 1980! But presumably this was to stoke things up following the announcement of the Shadow Synod

Posted by: Perry Butler on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 10:18am BST

I think that the appointment of the Bishop of Grantham was announced in September 2015 just before the invitations to the Canterbury meeting for the primates was sent out.

This would suggest that ++Welby is trying to be even handed?

Posted by: Verulamius on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 10:41am BST

So much for Leveson and the new approach to press regulation. The threat of outing in this case appears to be a straightforward intrusion of privacy with no offsetting public interest because Nicholas is entirely living in accordance with CofE doctrine.

Posted by: Kate on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 12:45pm BST

In view of the bishop's statement that he is living within the bishops' guidelines and that both Archbishop Justin and the Bishop of Lincoln knew of the relationship at the time of Bishop Chamberlain's appointment last year, this is a 'non story.' The Sunday paper (we shall learn which tomorrow) should be ashamed of itself.

Posted by: David Lamming on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 3:10pm BST

Emphatically agreed, David. All it's done is to hand caches of free ammo to traditionalists, who (despite this coming from a journalist), will use it to smear the affirming camp as a gang of bullies.

The last English "outing" campaign courtesy of Peter Tatchell was a disaster that alienated most all his natural allies. Hopefully, this'll have much less impact, and will be forgotten in due course. Although not, of course, by the man who's just been outed.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 4:03pm BST

While I am not a fan of "outing" it is surely regrettable that Bishop Chamberlain did not "out" himself sooner, whether out of fear or cowardice or for whatever reason. Especially as it was not a secret within the church hierarchy.
Figures of authority should be willing to take a lead for the sake of people who are far more vulnerable than they are.

Posted by: cjcjc on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 5:11pm BST

Cjcjc, I agree, but the descision was his to make, not that of whichever rag decided to force his hand.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 6:02pm BST

Fr David, the difference between Bishop Nicholas and Dean Jeffrey is that the former's life was an open secret, while the latter was simply open. While I have sympathy with the bishop being 'outed' against his will the whole episode illustrates once again the double standards by which the church operates.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 7:10pm BST

the bishops private life is private. what gives the gutter press the right to out. judging by the lack of interest by joe public in the cofe its a non story.

Posted by: henry dee on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 8:01pm BST

I think we're wanting to have our cake and eat it. On the one hand we deplore 90's-style outing campaigns, while at the same time welcome the opportunity for an openly gay and partnered member of the College of Bishops to put the case at this critical juncture in the Church's discernment following the shared conversations. There was no 'outing' in fact, only the bringing into the wider public domain a significant biographical detail, which is always announced for heterosexually-married appointees as a matter of course. This appointment was, in retrospect, a bold initiative, for which we must be grateful, and one which must have had the tacit support of traditionalists amongst the Bishop's episcopal colleagues, providing cover for further such appointments in the future, ideally to diocesan sees. Justin Welby has pulled off what his predecessor didn't manage to achieve, without any letters of protest from other bishops, showing how much further we've moved since 2003, hard though it sometimes seems.

Some of the more hard-line conservative blogs go to great lengths, almost to the point of obsession, to pathologise and deconstruct gay/LGBT identities, coupled with any scraps of pseudo-science however tenuous. They want clarity, not confusion about the Church's position. But today's story does rather highlight the somewhat topsy-turvy nature of the guidelines on equal marriage. If it came to light that a bachelor bishop had in fact a secret girlfriend out of wedlock, eyebrows would no doubt have been raised for different reasons. Couples will enter into a number of legal and financial arrangements (bank accounts, insurance policies and so on), none of which were available in first century Palestine. It just so happens that of all the documents a couple may keep in a box file at home, the one likely to cause a huge outcry (for gay partnered clergy) is the one issued by a registry office. It has been reported that there will be a voluntary outing of the contents of various box files next month, when we'll no doubt hear a lot more about Romans 1, if not John 13, v. 23.

Posted by: Andrew on Saturday, 3 September 2016 at 9:26pm BST

Before we fall over ourselves giving credit to Cantuar for this appointment, I would like to know a bit more about how it happened.

For instance, was this a CNC appointment? If so then is there a chance that Cantuar was simply outvoted?

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at 12:43am BST

No, Jeremy, this was a suffragan appointment made by his diocesan. The letter from the Bishop of Lincoln copied above explains the procedure.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at 8:16am BST

So there was an advisory panel--not the CNC, but presumably at the diocese level.

And reading between the lines, it looks as though the Archbishop of Canterbury was not on the advisory panel itself. If that is right, then he cannot have cowed the panel behind closed doors, as has been rumored has happened at the CNC.

Both the diocesan and the unanimous advisory panel supported this appointment.

Again I wonder whether the Archbishop of Canterbury's hand was forced here. If his approval was required and he had withheld it, then there would have been a strong argument that the celibacy "guidance" was being applied in bad faith, because even this guidance-complying candidate was being blocked.

Welby is enough of a politician to avoid a battle he cannot win, and to get out in front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.

Very rarely does positive social change come from the top down. Usually it bubbles up from below. I see no indication that this case was any different.

Posted by: Jeremy on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at 10:01am BST

Henry Dee (above) says "the bishop's private life is private". If that is the case, why was Jeffrey John's sexuality not private when he was blocked? And why are gay partnered clergy quizzed with highly impertinent, private questions before appointment?

Posted by: FrDavidH on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at 4:39pm BST

Just to be clear on process, although of course we cannot be privy to any conversations that formed part of the process, the position is that once the Bishop (in this case the Bishop of Lincoln) has identified the candidate names, he or she will seek concurrence from the Archbishop on the decision received. One of the factors the Archbishop will consider in providing his support for the appointment will be that the process as set out has been followed. There can be no doubt that the process was followed correctly, and on that basis the Archbishop will have known all the relevant facts. The statement by the Bishop of Grantham is highly significant (of course he deserves our prayers) and might well prove to be a game-changer in the current debate.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Sunday, 4 September 2016 at 11:04pm BST

The form of the Bishop of Grantham's statement is temperate and keeps him in consideration for a diocesan bishopric, or at least offers no new material his opponents can use against him. He is upholding in public the adopted position of the House of Bishops. Indeed, if politics in the higher levels of the Church are what they would be in other organisations, he will have enhanced his reputation as a safe pair of hands and someone who won't rock the boat to score political points.

It is futile, I think, to read more into the wording than that.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 5 September 2016 at 2:21pm BST

Whether or not a bishop's private life is private, that of their family certainly is. A message that church central could take from this is to stop putting details of spouses and families in announcements of appointments, both to discourage prurient interest in private matters and coincidentally to reduce the slightly queasy feeling these announcements evoke.

Posted by: Turbulent Priest on Wednesday, 7 September 2016 at 8:10am BST
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