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Tatchell plans to out 'hypocritical' gay bishops

01 August 2014


Umbrella cause: Peter Tatchell at a vigil calling for equal marriage, outside the Houe of Lords, in June, 2013  

Umbrella cause: Peter Tatchell at a vigil calling for equal marriage, outside the Houe of Lords, in June, 2013  

THE gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has vowed to out gay bishops "as a last resort", if the House of Bishops does not change its stance on same-sex relationships.

In a public dialogue with the Provost of St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, the Very Revd Kelvin Holdsworth, on 20 July, Mr Tatchell said that he was "amassing the evidence right now. I'm not saying we will use it, but we are certainly thinking about it, because I think people have a right to privacy provided they are not using their own power and authority to harm other people. And when other people are being caused harm and suffering, we have a duty to try and stop it." He was referring to the action taken against clergy who have married their same-sex partners (News, 11 July).

Outing bishops was "certainly not the preferable way; it's not the the first option. As a last resort, I think it is morally and ethically justifiable."

On Tuesday, Mr Tatchell said: "Our focus will be on bishops who endorse the Church's anti-gay stance, and who take disciplinary action against clergy in same-sex relationships or who marry a same-sex partner." This would include those who "oppose gay equality by supporting the ban on same-sex marriage" - including gay bishops who were not in a relationship.

He said: "Bishops who preach publicly against gay equality while privately being gay is, in most people's eyes, a form of hypocrisy."

He went on: "It's our hope that outing will not be necessary. If the Bishops rethink their stand on gay issues . . . we plan to have a dialogue with the church leadership prior to taking any action, providing they are willing to meet and discuss the issue."

In 1994, the campaign group OutRage!, of which Mr Tatchell is a member, outed ten bishops in the Church of England. OutRage! had deemed the campaign to be a success, he said on Tuesday: "As far as I know, none of the ten bishops ever again said anything anti-gay, or again endorsed homophobic laws." He also suggested that a House of Bishops' declaration shortly afterwards against homophobia had been prompted by the controversy.

Writing on his blog, Provost Holdsworth said: "It seems to me that it is perfectly legitimate for anyone with concrete evidence of a bishop who has supported an anti-gay policy, such as the recent pastoral statement in the Church of England, and who is in a same-sex partnership, to draw attention to that hypocrisy in public."

On Monday, the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn, and St James's, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, who married his partner, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, last month, voiced his opposition to outing: "I would much rather that the gay bishops just came out themselves. . . My suspicion is that the Church is deeply homophobic, but they could prove me wrong by coming out. . . For them, I think it would give them back their personal integrity, but it would also demonstrate to the wider community that there are good, faithful, hard-working bishops who also happen to be gay."

On Monday, the chief executive of Stonewall, Ruth Hunt, said: "We want to see a day when the Church of England welcomes everyone who is called to serve, regardless of their sexual orientation. We don't think that outing bishops will bring that about more quickly, or change attitudes any more swiftly. Com-ing out is a deeply personal decision, and different for every individual.

"We do, however, know that when religious leaders choose to come out, it inspires a generation of young people, and their families, who fear that their faith and sexuality are incompatible. Anything that can encourage, rather than discourage, clergy to be open about who they are is good for individuals, and good for the Church."

Ms Hunt is a Roman Catholic, and in a civil partnership.

Question of the Week: Is outing counter-productive?



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