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Reaction to outing of Bishop of Grantham of CoE

Reaction to outing of Bishop of Grantham of CoE

After the Bishop of Grantham in the Church of England, Nicholas Chamberlain, told an interviewer last week that he was gay lots of people have felt they had something to say on the issue.  You can find a round up of reactions at Thinking Anglicans here.

Perhaps one of the most salient is the response of Scottish priest and blogger Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow.  In his response, posted at his blog, he brings up some important points that have little to do with the Bishop of Grantham and a great deal to do with the seemingly endless inability of some Anglicans to accept the innate, ontological nature of human sexuality.

First up is the issue of “celibacy.”

“we seem to be no further forward in getting either a common or a common-sense understanding of what celibacy is. The indignity of people being forced to declare what happens in their bedrooms is hideous. Moreover, the idea of someone being in a “celibate relationship” is entirely absurd.

I’ve written about celibacy at some length before in a blog post which enraged a good many people. (Beware of the Celibate)

I have not fundamentally changed my mind since then. It seems to me that celibacy in the Christian tradition is a turning away from romantic relationships in order to be able turn towards God and turn outwards to others. The idea of an exclusive partnership which is in some way celibate is bordering on being a contradiction of terms. What is really being discussed in England is whether individual bishops (and others) are choosing to abstain from certain sexual practises. There is an enormous difference between celibacy and abstinence and the confusion in the Church of England doesn’t just make Anglicanism look foolish but discredits Christianity as a whole, makes a laughing stock of the wider Anglican Communion and makes it much harder to share the love of God to those who need most to know about it.”

He also takes to task the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon.

“[He] perhaps needs to be reminded that a far greater sin than homosexuality is the inability in his office of being able to distinguish between the Church of England in particular and Anglicanism in general. There are, to put it bluntly once again, churches within the Communion which don’t accept the moral teachings of Lambeth 1.10, never accepted the moral teachings of Lambeth 1.10 and never will accept the teachings of Lambeth 1.10. For the Secretary General to persist in the fantasy that the Communion is united in believing in Lambeth 1.10 is the equivalent of believing that there are faeries (albeit perhaps celibate faeries) living at the bottom of the Lambeth Palace gardens.”

Ultimately, this sort of knowing acknowledgment and hair-splitting focus on what individuals are doing with their “bits” undermines the Church’s efforts to further Christ’s mission because it makes them look hypocritical.  As Kelvin writes; “England will not be won for Christ whilst the structures of the Church of England make Christianity look like a religion for narrow-minded fools.

Read it all; he makes some excellent points and offers substantive critiques.


Also read the comments – this exchange especially stood out (and has subsequently been deleted):

Mick  says:

Well the church is supposed to represent Jesus. The church (the Christians) are to live Holy lives. That means everything I do should be governed by scripture. Christ’s ambassador to the world. We all sin. But should always be in a state of repentence or sober thinking. If the Pope was gay would that be a good thing or a bad thing.? If your gay you need to resign from any leadership roles in the church setting. In a bank or secular job is OK because you are not professing Christianity. But sin is sin. So if you are not Christian then live as you wish within the law of the land. God hates sin. Homosexeuality and gay relationships is also sin.

Kelvin says:

  • Bless you for commenting here, Mick. Just to confirm I’m quite as gay as you fear.

    For the benefit of sensible discussion, further comments welcome about the issues raised in my post which don’t include whether or not being gay is legitimate.


image: Martin Godwin/for the Guardian


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Anne Bay

The ECUSA has several clergy who identify as members of the LGBT community. It’s happily becoming less and less a “big deal.” I’m hoping in another 100 years it won’t even be an issue anywhere in the world. Education on human sexuality is greatly needed. It’s complex and everyone is a sexual being-but not the same as the next person. We need more education in this field, in the home and at school. And we need to get the “holier than thou” folk out of people’s private lives. And give the poor Bible a rest as far as quoting lines from it to provide credibility for one’s own beliefs. Quoting the Bible can “prove” anything. That’s not what spirituality is about.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

Chamberlain said, “I don’t think we’ve reached a position where the church is going to be marrying same-sex couples,” he said. He declined to express objections to the C of E’s celibacy rule for gay clergy. “My observation of human beings over the years has shown me how much variety there is in the way people express their relationships. Physical expression is not for everyone.”

Rod Gillis

I have no opinion on the substantive issue. Never heard of the good bishop until this week.

However, I notice your comments often mirror those of the Communion Secretary, similar comments, different venues.

The communion Secretary is often found on the domestic news organ ACNS. While your comments, of course, are found on sites like this one, where many folks from the GBLTQ community, and those of us who support them, also comment.

Rod Gillis

@cseitz, ” just factually speaking, I made no comment…” Quotes, spliced with an apparent matter of fact observation, posted in the comments section, is a comment.

Prof. Christopher Seitz

“I notice your comments” — just factually speaking, I made no comment.

I cited the remarks as they appeared at the Guardian. Verbatim.

On the issue at hand, I take it that the Bishop believes that male relationships can exist without any sexual component. That is what he has said (not under duress…) in the remarks he made to the paper.

Ian Paul and Wes Hill have also remarked that one ought to take him at his word. Wes Hill is a (self defined) Gay Christian who believes Christ was clear about sexual relationships and that traditional marriage is how sexual relations are to be ordered.

Perhaps in time we will learn where his position and that of the Bishop overlap.

“My observation of human beings over the years has shown me how much variety there is in the way people express their relationships. Physical expression is not for everyone.”

Wayne Rollins

Taking the argument that celibacy leads to a closer relationship with God, then one can assume that a celibate homosexual priest or bishop is more likely to be a better spiritual leader than a married heterosexual priest/bishop, who divides his or her time between affections for God and a spouse.

Gregory Orloff

“Everything I do should be governed by scripture.”

Good heavens! One hopes that folks who peddle that line don’t work on Saturdays (Sunday is *not* the Sabbath), don’t eat pork and shellfish, don’t wear cotton/polyester blends, don’t engage in economic arrangements where money generates interest, among a host of other things.

After all, that’s all in the Bible.

Failure to follow is simply picking and choosing, if everything one does “should be governed by scripture.”

David Carver

Well, you know the Church’s attitude towards interest historically… ;P

John Collins

I am grateful for the faithful witness of Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain and for his courage to ‘come out’ and be authentically present. I am equally happy for him and his partner and wish them happiness in their partnership. While the C of E’s policy needs to be changed for sure, I also want to add that how Bishop Nicholas and his partner express intimacy w/in their romantic relationship should be a private matter and respected. That is something defined by the couple.

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