08 September 2016, The Tablet

The tide is turning


The response to the Bishop of Grantham’s announcement that he is gay reveals that the Church of England has shifted in its stance, particularly under Archbishop Welby

Perhaps the most surprising thing about last weekend’s Guardian interview in which Dr Nicholas Chamberlain, the Church of England’s suffragan bishop of Grantham, became the first member of the episcopate to announce he is gay, was how little upset it caused.

The conservative evangelicals, who are usually the section of the Church quickest to express outrage, were strangely muted. Even the African bishops of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), the group set up especially to oppose any accommodation with gays in the worldwide Anglican Communion, confined themselves to a declaration that Chamberlain’s consecration 10 months ago had been a mistake. No one had told them and so they had not noticed at the time. It was a fait accompli.

For those with long memories this was in stark contrast to 13 years ago when Jeffrey John, the then dean of Southwark Cathedral, had been named as Bishop of Reading. John was in a long-term, albeit celibate, relationship with another man. Orchestrated protests from some evangelicals and African bishops over a period of weeks put considerable pressure on the then Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, some threatening to leave the Anglican Communion if John’s consecration went ahead. John was surreptitiously called in to Lambeth Palace one Saturday morning and forced to stand down, despite the protests of his current and appointing bishops at Southwark and Oxford.

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