CHURCH of England bosses are due to announce the Bishop of Grantham Nicholas Chamberlain as their first openly gay bishop in a development certain to reignite divisions about homosexuality among the clergy.
After years of debate the Church of England finally allowed gay clergy within its ranks but there have been objections to bishops being allowed to be openly homosexual. Also, under laws agreed to by the Church of England, gay clergymen are accepted but they are not allowed to enter into or conduct same-sex marriages.
However, earlier this year, clergyman Canon Jeremy Pemberton tied the knot with his gay partner Laurence Cunnington in direct defiance of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Now, the chasm in the church is set to widen as Bishop Chamberlain, from Grantham in central England, revealed that he is in a long-term relationship with his male partner.
Bishop Chamberlain, said: “It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out as I adhered to church guidelines which stipulate that gay clergy must be celibate. People know I’m gay but it’s not the first thing I’d say to anyone as sexuality is part of who I am but it’s my ministry that I want to focus on.”
He added that the church knew he was gay when he became a bishop last year. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, leader of the world’s Anglican faith, had said at the time that Bishop Chamberlain’s sexuality was completely irrelevant.
“His appointment as Bishop of Grantham was made on the basis of his skills and calling to serve the church in the diocese of Lincoln. He lives within the bishops’ guidelines and his sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office,” Archbishop Welby said.
A Church of England spokesman said it would have been unjust not to appoint Bishop Chamberlain based on his sexuality. In 2013, the Church of England dropped its opposition to gay clergymen in civil partnerships becoming bishops although many of the Anglican faith worldwide, who number 800m, were opposed to it.
In 2014, the Anglican Church of Uganda said it may consider breaking away from their mother church in England if it put Uganda under pressure over its tough anti-homosexuality law. Earlier this year, Scotland’s Episcopal Church became the first Anglican mission branch in Britain to take steps towards allowing gay marriage on its premises after its leaders voted for a change to alter its definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.