The existence of homosexual bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other traditions is a matter of historical record.[1] The mores of the past, however, meant that homosexual activity was engaged in secretly. When it was made public, official response ranged from inaction to expulsion from Holy Orders.[2] As far back as the eleventh century, Ralph, Archbishop of Tours had his lover installed as Bishop of Orléans, yet neither Pope Urban II, nor his succesor Paschal II took action to depose either man.[3]

It was customary in the past for individuals - whether clergy or not - to remain secretive (in the closet) about their sexual orientation and activity. The higher prominence given today to the presence of homosexual clergy, including bishops, in the life of the church reflects broader issues, both socially and ecclesiologically (see List of Christian denominational positions on homosexuality), concerning issues of social tolerance and the relationship between social change and doctrinal development. This has precipitated crises in various Christian denominations, resulting from divergent construals of Christian ethical doctrines (see Homosexuality and Christianity), which in turn are associated with the interpretation of the Bible (exegesis and hermeneutics). Traditionally, Christian doctrine has categorised homosexual activity as sinful. It was not until the late twentieth century, with the growing tolerance in Europe and North America towards homosexual activity and gays and lesbians, that bishops and other clergy have begun coming out.

In modern AnglicanismEdit

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It is in contemporary Anglicanism that the issue of homosexuality and its relationship to people in the episcopate has been confronted openly. Indeed, the only church to ever consecrate an openly gay bishop who was not celibate has been the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, a member of the Anglican Communion, who consecrated Gene Robinson diocesan bishop of Diocese of New Hampshire in 2004.[4] There have been documented cases of other openly gay Anglican bishops, however. For instance, Episcopalian Bishop Otis Charles came out as gay after his retirement.[5] He had been a Bishop in Utah from 1971 to 1993. Bishop Mervyn Castle was consecrated Bishop of False Bay (a suffragan of the diocese of Cape Town) in 1994, but because most Anglicans outside South Africa were unaware of his homosexuality, and because he was celibate, no comparable controversy took place. Bishop Arthur Mervyn Stockwood, who was gay, was bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Southwark, but also celibate. He even gently rebuked a parish vicar for initiating blessing of same-sex unions in the late 1970s.

When Peter Tatchell threatened Archbishop David Hope with "outing" in 1995 as part of the much criticized outrage! campaign, Hope acknowledged that his sexuality is "a grey area", and that he had "sought to lead a celibate life" and is "perfectly happy and content". In 2003, Jeffrey John was appointed to the post of Bishop of Reading (a suffragan of the Bishop of Oxford).[4] John stood down under pressure from the Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams in the ensuing controversy. He is in a relationship with another male priest, and says that it has been celibate in nature for several years.

A third of the Bench of Bishops in the Church in Wales are homosexual. In April 2007 the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon was outed as having an ongoing relationship with another clergyman in the Diocese of Winchester. [6]



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