Bishop forced to speak out by gay group

A senior bishop of the Church of England yesterday described himself as sexually ambiguous but celibate after sustained pressure from Outrage! the gay pressure group.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev David Hope, called a press conference to publicise a correspondence he had had with Peter Tatchell of Outrage! this winter. Mr Tatchell handed him a letter on 4 January which said in part: "As you are no doubt aware, it is widely understood ... that you are gay. Although Outrage! has been passed a lot of detailed information about your personal life which would have enabled us to confidently name you at Synod on 30 November, we chose not to do so."

Dr Hope, asked why he had called the press conference, said: "I honestly felt, I cannot live my life with this kind of thing going on. If I were now asked, `are you a gay bishop?' I think my essential reply would be that this is a private matter. From the beginning I have sought to lead a single and celibate life. I am not a sexually active person."

Officially the Church of England, like the Roman Catholic Church, condemns homosexual acts, though not people who may be tempted to them. In practice it has a flourishing population of gay clergy, mostly in London.

Dr Hope said that he did not think the church as a whole would approve of the ordination of practising gay clergy, "and as a bishop, I do not feel myself free to act outside what I believe the mind of the church to be".

However, he believed sexuality was a private matter. "Sexuality is not the first question I ask about. On the whole it is not a question that arises unless the person concerned brings it up.

"From my point of view, the question of a person's sexuality is morally neutral. Some people are quite clear that they are clearly homosexual, and others that they are clearly heterosexual. A certain ambiguity is probably more where I stand." But, he said, sexual acts outside marriage were not acceptable. Asked if he had remained celibate, Dr Hope said he had.

He described the letters he had received as "seriously intimidatory or worse". He was considering legal action against Outrage! Mr Tatchell was astonished that Dr Hope felt intimidated: "We know a lot about David Hope, not all of which he has so far revealed. He has totally misrepresented the contents of my letter. If we were threatening to out him we would have made that clear."

Dr Hope, third senior cleric in the Church of England, is the 12th bishop in five months to be accused of homosexuality by Outrage! Mr Tatchell claims to be in correspondence with two more Anglican bishops and four senior Catholic clergy to persuade them to come out.

The Tatchell letters, page 6

Leading article, letters, page 14

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