The Washington Post reports that Derek Rawcliffe, the first Church of England bishop to be open about his homosexuality, died on February 1 at 89.
St. Aidan's Church in Leeds, which will celebrate a requiem Mass for Rawcliffe on Sunday, said he died Feb. 1.\
Rawcliffe disclosed his homosexuality on television in 1995, when he was serving as an honorary bishop in Ripon and Leeds diocese. He was dismissed the following year for conducting blessings of same-sex couples.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in 1995, Rawcliffe said he faced the issue of his sexual identity when he was working in Melanesia, and realized he loved a young man who had made approaches.
"I began to love everybody in a new way and to see that in spite of our sins and failings, God loves us," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Later, however, Rawcliffe befriended and corresponded with Susan Speight, who had what he called a "miraculous healing" from a disease which had put her in a wheelchair. He said he asked, "God, do you want me to marry her?" and he did so in 1977. She died in 1989.
Rawcliffe served as bishop of Glasgow and Galloway from 1980 to 1991.
In retirement, Rawcliffe continued to minister at St. Aidan's.
"Derek has contributed substantially in Leeds, both to our worship, through St. Aidan's, and to the care of and concern about asylum seekers," said John Packer, the bishop of Ripon and Leeds.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement had this tribute to Bishop Rawcliffe:
The retired openly gay bishop, Derek Rawcliffe, died in Leeds, England, on 1 February 2011, aged 89.
Derek Rawcliffe was born on 8 July 1921, educated at Leeds University and ordained in 1944. After a curacy at Claines St George, Worcester, he was a teacher in the Solomon Islands from 1947 until 1953, when he became Archdeacon of Southern Melanesia and the New Hebrides in the south Pacific. He was the first Bishop of the New Hebrides from 1975 to 1980. He then transferred to become Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. In the 1990s, he became Assistant Bishop of Ripon.
Derek has been a strong supporter of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, coordinating our Welcome letter writing scheme and the Pen Friend Scheme for many years. He has taken on many roles over the years including being the convenor for the Leeds local group.
Rev Sharon Ferguson, the current Chief Executive said, ‘I only had the pleasure of knowing Derek for the last few years but his incredible passion and commitment to LGCM was uplifting. He was a wonderful man who loved life and all people. He lived his faith to its fullest and it was his Christian beliefs that drove him to fight for social justice wherever he encountered any form of discrimination or oppression. He truly was a remarkable man and this world is a better place for his presence.’
An obituary also appears here.