Mitre (plain)

A mitre is used as a symbol of the bishop's ministry in Western Christianity.

The existence of homosexual bishops in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and other traditions is a matter of historical record, though never, until recently, considered licit by any of the main Christian denominations.[1] 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 successor Paschal II took action to depose either man.[3]

Historical secrecy

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 and understanding in Europe and North America towards sexual orientation and gays and lesbians, that bishops and other clergy have begun coming out. However, the controversial nature of the issue in many churches has meant that such revelations normally emerge as a result of public scandal.

However, a 2006 survey of weekly church-goers in United States found that there remains deep opposition in some congregations to the idea of gay pastors and bishops serving openly. This ranged from 80% Evangelical Christians opposed, to around only half of Catholic congregations. Other denominations show even lower disapproval, with figures as little as 40%.[4]

In modern Anglicanism

Gene Robinson

Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire

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 large mainstream 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 2003.[5]

There have been documented cases of other openly gay Anglican bishops, however. For instance, Episcopal Bishop Otis Charles came out as gay after his retirement.[6] 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.

In 1995, Bishop Derek Rawcliffe, retired Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway in the Scottish Episcopal Church, disclosed his homosexuality.[7] Like Brown, Rawcliffe had also served as a bishop in Melanesia.

When Peter Tatchell threatened Archbishop David Hope with "outing" in 1995 as part of the much criticized outrage! campaign, Hope acknowledged that his sexuality was "a grey area", and that he had "sought to lead a celibate life" and was "perfectly happy and content".

Bishop Terry Brown, of Malaita in the Solomon Islands, attended the 1998 Lambeth Conference (which declared same-sex relationships "incompatible with Scripture") as an openly gay man (he also attended the 2008 Lambeth Conference).[8]

In 2003, Jeffrey John was chosen to be the Bishop of Reading (a suffragan of the Bishop of Oxford).[5] As a result of the ensuing controversy, however, John was not consecrated as a bishop. He is in a long-term relationship with another male priest and says that he has been celibate for several years.

In November 2009, the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles elected the 55 year old Reverend Mary Glasspool to be its assistant bishop. Glasspool is an out lesbian and has been in a committed relationship with her partner since 1988. However, her appointment is not yet secure and could be rejected by diocesan bishops or committees. Hours after her election, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams called it a threat to the cohesion of the Anglican Church. Glasspool responded, "I've committed my life as a life of service to the people of Jesus Christ, and what hurts is the sense that anybody might have that my name or my servanthood could be perceived as divisive."[9]

Roman Catholic Church in modern times

Cardinal Francis Spellman

Francis Cardinal Spellman

Francis Spellman, the Cardinal Archbishop of New York (died 1967) was rumored during his lifetime to have been gay. Spellman's biographer, John Cooney, reported that many interviewees took his homosexuality for granted.[10] A book published in 1998 claims that during World War II, Spellman allegedly was carrying on a relationship with a chorus boy in the Broadway revue One Touch of Venus.[11] Spellman defended Senator Joseph McCarthy's 1953 investigations of subversives and homosexuals in the federal government.

Archbishop Hans Hermann Groër was removed from office by John Paul II for alleged sexual misconduct involving either homosexuality or pederasty. Officially, the Pope accepted the resignation letter which Groër had written on the occasion of his 75th birthday. This made Groër, who had adamantly refused until his death to comment in public on the allegations, one of the highest-ranking Catholic clergymen to become caught up in the sexual abuse scandals.[12]

Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, Wisconsin retired on May 24, 2002 following the revelation that he had used $450,000 in archdiocesan funds to settle a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment. In a statement one week later, he admitted the falsity of his previous assertion that income he had earned outside of his priestly occupation (and turned over to the Church) exceeded the $450,000.[13] In 2009 he confirmed that he was gay, but did not reveal any details of his relationships[14][15][13][16]

In 2005, Juan Carlos Maccarone, the Argentine Bishop of Santiago del Estero was forced to resign after images were released of him engaged in sexual activity with another man. Suggestion was made that the ex-state governor Carlos Juarez had been involved in the release after criticism of the governor's human rights record[17].

The auxiliary Roman Catholic Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa, resigned in July 2002 following allegations that he outed himself as gay on a sometimes-sexually charged Web site set up for gay priests. Bishop Reginald Cawcutt blamed the scandal on the conservative U.S. organization Roman Catholic Faithful which infiltrated the now-closed Web site, called St. Sebastian's Angels, and traced posting addresses[18].

Francisco Domingo Barbosa Da Silveira, the Bishop of Minas in Uruguay was forced to resign in July 2009, following a gay sex scandal where he had faced extortion.[19][20]

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a retired bishop in the diocese of Detroit, has consistently been a supporter of New Ways Ministry and has also called for homosexual priests and bishops to "come out" and be truthful to themselves and others. Gumbleton has also acted as a keynote speaker at Call to Action conferences. In 1995 he wore a mitre at a church service on which were symbols of the cross, a rainbow and a pink triangle in solidarity with the gay community. [21] Later, he came into the public eye before the Vatican's Instruction with regard to the ordination of homosexual men was released, arguing against Fr. Baker's article on the issue in America. [22]


Stockholm stift vapen

Arms of the diocese of Stockholm

The Church of Sweden permits openly gay and lesbian clergy to act as ministers, often in senior positions.

In May 2009 the Diocese of Stockholm elected Eva Brunne as its Bishop. She won the post by 413 votes against 365 votes and officially succeeded Bishop Caroline Krook in November 2009. Brunne lives in a registered partnership with her partner Gunilla Linden, who is a priest, and with whom she has a son. Brunne is believed to be the world's first lesbian bishop.

Following her appointment, Brunne said: "I am happy and very proud to be part of a church that encourages people to make their own decisions." She added: "Diversity is a big wealth."[23]

Likewise the national Lutheran churches of Danish National Church and the Church of Norway permit the ordination of openly LGBT clergy.

In Germany, the Lutheran, United and Reformed churches as part of the Evangelical Church in Germany ordain openly LGBT Christian clergy. [24]

The Protestant Church in the Netherlands also ordains openly LGBT Christian clergy.

In the United States the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted in 2009 to allow people in same-gender relationships to be ordained as clergy.

Church of Latter Day Saints

According to one article in 2007 Ron Boston, a former bishop of the Church of Christ (Latter Day Saints) with the church in New Zealand and Australia, joined the Raelian Movement in order to express his homosexuality.[25] However, the Latter Day Saint concept of the office differs significantly from the role of bishops in other Christian denominations, being in some respects more analogous to a pastor or parish priest.


  1. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, by John Boswell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), pp. 211 f.
  2. Ibid., 214-15
  3. Boswell, 214-15
  4. Rasmussen Reports, 2006-06-30. Churchgoers Disapprove of Gay and Lesbian Pastors. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Guardian, 2003. "The Guardian profile: Gene Robinson", Stephen Bates, October 31, 2003. Retrieved on September 1, 2006.
  6. LGBT Religious Archives Network, Profiles. Retrieved on September 12, 2006.
  7. Helen Gibson, TIME Magazine, 2003-06-29. A House Divided. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  8. Nicholas Knisely, Episcopal Café, 2007-09-07, Another Gay bishop. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  10. John Cooney, The American Pope: The Life and Times of Francis Cardinal Spellman, New York, 1984,
  11. Loughery, p. 152
  12. Obituary: Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer; Disgraced Archbishop of Vienna.(Obituaries) - The Independent (London, England) - HighBeam Research
  13. 13.0 13.1 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 2002 June 1
  14. WITI-TV, Milwaukee, 11 May 2009, relaying an Associated Press report
  15. National Review, 2002 May 24
  16. Dahir, Mubarak (2002-07-23). "The dangerous lives of gay priests". The Advocate. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  17. - retrieved 6 August 2009
  19. On Top Magazine. 2009, July 2. "Uruguay Bishop Steps Down Amid Gay Sex Scandal".
  20. Catholic News Agency. 2009, July 1. "Pope accepts resignation of Uruguayan bishop accused of sexual misconduct".
  21. New Ways Ministry. 1995 Building Bridges Award Recipient 1995
  22. America. Yes, Gay Men Should Be Ordained 30 September 2002
  23. - retrieved 6 August 2009
  24. EKD:Theologische, staatskirchenrechtliche und dienstrechtliche Aspekte zum kirchlichen Umgang mit den rechtlichen Folgen der Eintragung gleichgeschlechtlicher Lebenspartnerschaften nach dem Lebenspartnerschaftsgesetz, September 2002 (german)
  25. Cult Lures Gay Bishop into Fold], New Truth & TV Extra. 23 April 2004. Retrieved 23 March 2007.


Other sources

See also