[ACNS, by Adrian Butcher] The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has moved to clarify any misunderstanding among Anglican provinces around the world after news emerged at the weekend of the first English Bishop to declare that he is gay and in a relationship.
The suffragan Bishop of Grantham in the Diocese of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Nicholas Chamberlain, told the British media he had adhered to church guidelines under which gay clergy must be celibate and cannot marry. He said his sexuality was no secret and was part of who he was – but it was his ministry that he wanted to focus on.
Dr Idowu-Fearon said: “It is clear that Bishop Nicholas has abided by the guidelines set down by the Church. In fact, his lifestyle would make him acceptable to serve the church at any time in its history. I reject the suggestion that his appointment is an ‘error’.
“I do recognise that this is a sensitive area for many people whatever their convictions. It is also a difficult time for Bishop Nicholas with revelations about his private life being made public in such a dramatic way, against his will, by anonymous sources that seem to be out to make trouble.
“The Anglican Communion is a worldwide family and, like any family, we don’t agree on everything,” he added. “But we are committed to working together on difficult issues. I want to reassure the Communion of my commitment to what was set out at the Lambeth conference in 1998 – that human sexuality finds it full expression in marriage between a man and woman. But all baptised, faithful and believing people are loved by God and full members of the body of Christ regardless of their sexual orientation. The Anglican Communion has never made sexual orientation a condition of eligibility to hold office within the church and I reject the suggestion that it has.”
Bishop Nicholas was consecrated in November 2015. Everyone involved in his appointment knew of his personal situation. In a statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the Bishop’s appointment had been made on the basis of his skills and calling to serve.
The statement continues: “He lives within the bishops’ guidelines and his sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office.”
The Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Revd Christopher Lowson, said: “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. . .
“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.”