The Rt Rev Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London has been reported, according to the Sunday times, as warning his gay clergy to end homosexual relationships or face disciplinary action. He is said to have outlined the new policy at two recent meetings with conservative evangelical clergy in London Diocese. He told them he would act to “uphold the discipline of the church” and revealed that he had already removed a gay priest from his post.
Bishop Chartres confirmed he had told the evangelical meetings that he would take action but declined to specify what he planned. “We are upholding the positive teaching of the church,” he said. “The two (possibilities) that are available to the clergy are lifelong heterosexual marriage and the single state. I am upholding the official teaching of the church but will not start witch hunts.” He added that he would handle the issue sensitively. “I do it pastorally in a way that does not contribute to a sense of inquisition,” he said.
Richard Kirker, general secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, said the bishop might now be forced to take action against some of the most senior clergy in the capital. “Perhaps the bishop should start with his own senior staff and colleagues since there are gay archdeacons in the diocese of London, not all of whom are known to be celibate,” he said.
This is a reaction to the campaign by certain evangelical Anglican groups against the appointment of Dr Rowan Williams as the next Archbishop of Canterbury. Some clergy have threatened to withdraw cash contributions and say they may look to bishops from overseas for alternative leadership. A few want Dr Williams to resign from his new post.
The Sunday Times proclaimed that Richard Chartres leads a diocese in which the proportion of gay priests is estimated at 30%- 40%, the highest in the Church of England. Many live with their companions, often describing them as “lodgers”. The paper headlined the article ” Bishop tells gay clergy to end relationships”, but what the bishop is actually is quoted as saying doesn’t quite justify the headline. No doubt he wants the evangelicals to think that’s what he’s said, but reading between the lines the message is slightly different.
He has restated the policy of the House of Bishops based on “Issues in Human Sexuality”, but has said he won’t “start” witch hunts; which means that he will act, but only if circumstances are brought to his attention. So what he is really saying to his gay clergy is not “end your relationships”, but “keep your heads down, if I don’t know anything I won’t do anything”. In other words the same dishonest attitude which has been characteristic in most dioceses for the last ten years.