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Richard Coles' aim of becoming prison chaplain stalls over 'humiliating' chat with bishop over sexuality

by Donna Birrell

Rev Richard Coles says he has shelved plans to become a prison chaplain because he doesn’t want to have a ‘humiliating’ conversation with a bishop about his same-sex relationship.

Speaking to the White Wine Question Time podcast Rev Coles, who retired as a parish vicar last year, said he had started the process of becoming a prison chaplain but that negotiations had stalled because of the Church of England’s stance on same-sex relationships :

“ I’d be interested in prison chaplaincy, I’ve been talking to people about that – but I do need to have my credentials re-stamped. And there’s a problem with that in, at the moment, the rules for the clergy and the Church of England is that if we are involved in a same-sex relationship then we have to abide by those rules.

“And that means having a conversation with the bishop. And I realise that I don’t want to have that conversation.

“I’m 61. I find it humiliating. I’m not talking about something that is a shameful secret that I do behind the bike sheds. I’m a grown-up and I’m having a grown-up relationship with somebody and I’m not going to humiliate myself, or indeed the bishop, by submitting to that sort of humiliation.

“It’s not going to happen. I’m not prepared to do it. So that’s a bit of a problem at the moment.

“I do help in an emergency obviously.”

Rev Coles who is also well-known as a broadcaster, was close to tears as he described how he missed being a vicar and his place in the local community. He was vicar of Finedon in Northamptonshire until his retirement.

The Church of England’s General Synod is currently meeting in York where it is discussing the issue of conducting same-sex blessings for gay couples in church. Rev Coles said :

“Things are on the move a bit in the Church of England and I hope we’ll have some sort of resolution about that.

“It’s a real argument and within the Church you’ll find people of integrity and good faith on both sides of that argument who aren’t able to find some sort of compromise, which would give us a way forward. There’s a bit of movement around that but it’s a long way off yet.”

Church of England rules require clergy in same-sex relationships to have a private discussion with a bishop about their circumstances.

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