The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, has declared that he is gay and in a relationship, becoming the first Church of England bishop to do so.
Chamberlain, consecrated as the suffragan bishop of the Lincolnshire town last year, spoke to The Guardian to reveal his sexuality after learning another newspaper was threatening to do so.
He said his relationship had never been a secret, and all those involved in his appointment, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, were aware of his sexuality.
“It was not my decision to make a big thing about coming out,” Chamberlain told The Guardian. “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.”
Chamberlain said that in accordance with Church of England guidelines around gay relationships, he and his partner remained celibate, and the couple are not married.
While same-sex marriages were legalised in the UK in December 2014, the Church of England remains opposed, and gay members of the clergy are banned from marrying.
"It is faithful, loving, we are like-minded, we enjoy each other's company and we share each other's life," Chamberlain said of his relationship.
In a statement following Chamberlain's announcement, Welby, the Church of England's most senior bishop, said: “I am and have been fully aware of Bishop Nick’s long-term, committed relationship."
"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.”
The Bishop of Lincoln, Christopher Lowson, who along with Welby approved Chamberlain's consecration also saw no relevance of sexuality to the appointment.
“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," Lowson said. "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.”
Gafcon, a conservative group including Anglicans outside of the UK, believed that Chamberlain's appointment as Bishop of Grantham was a "major error" and "a serious cause for concern for biblically orthodox Anglicans around the world," in light of the announcement.
In a statement, general secretary of Gafcon Global the Most Rev Peter Jensen believed there had been secrecy around Chamberlain's sexuality, and accused the church of being a "fait accompli" in his appointment.
Jensen continued: "We remain opposed to the guidelines for clergy and Bbshops, permitting them to be in same sex relationships as long as they publicly declare that the relationship is not sexual. This creates confusion in terms of the church’s teaching on the nature of sex and marriage, and it is not modelling a helpful way to live, given the reality of our humanity, and temptation to sexual sin."
Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Laura Silver at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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