By Sam Saunders
The issue of rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender peoples has dominated headlines for certainly as long as I can remember, however, with the legalisation of gay marriage in 2014, I thought that we were finally turning a corner with this issue. I (as I hope we all did) thought that LGBT rights was an issue that still needed resolving, but one that would come to dominate the headlines much less than it has done in recent years. Unfortunately, it was revealed last week that the Anglican Bishop of Grantham is gay and in a committed relationship with another man. Obviously, this was a shock, as it was the first time that a bishop has ‘come out’ as openly homosexual, however, I don’t think it should have been, as the Anglican Church has had to relax its anti-gay stance in recent years. Mostly due to both the legalisation of gay marriage in churches and the appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, who has apologised profusely for the injustices suffered by LGBT people throughout history. The Archbishop was also fully aware of the sexuality of Bishop Nicholas Chamberlain when he was consecrated and he fully adheres to the bishop’s guidelines, which include remaining celibate and staying unmarried whilst in a same-sex relationship. Mr Chamberlain has also never tried to hide his sexuality in any way, but, that like with many of us he said that ‘it’s [being gay] not the first thing I’d say to anyone.’
And I think that this issue highlights a problem in our society, as Gafcon (a group of conservative Anglicans) called Mr Chamberlain’s appointment a ‘major error’. They also stated that there had been an ‘element of secrecy’ around his appointment. This, to me, is a frankly ridiculous stance to take, as nobody in the Church of England would think about screaming from the rooftops that they’d just consecrated a heterosexual bishop, so why should this be any different for a homosexual clergyman? This possibly shows that people are not necessarily as accepting as they think, as when a LGBT person steps forward to do a job that traditionally (and unfairly) always been the preserve of heterosexuals, there’s a massive hoo-hah, despite the advances made in recent years, I mean, how are we ever going to achieve a truly equal society if some can’t accept one gay bishop in the Church of England? The problem that I have with this whole story is that it seems that, to some Anglicans (albeit Conservative ones), that as soon as someone is revealed to be homosexual, they must automatically be worse in their role than a heterosexual person, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Perhaps Justin Welby summed up my feelings on this story perfectly when he said: ‘His [Mr Chamberlains] appointment as Bishop of Grantham was made on the basis of his skills and calling to serve the church in the diocese of Lincoln’ and that ‘his sexuality is completely irrelevant to his office.’ So I think that what this news should make us all do is to take a step back from the issue and to consider if it’s all really a fuss over nothing, because I really think it is.