LONDON – Derek Rawcliffe, the first Church of England bishop to be open about his homosexuality, has died. He was 89.
St. Aidan's Church in Leeds, which will celebrate a requiem Mass for Rawcliffe on Sunday, said he died Feb. 1.
Rawcliffe disclosed his homosexuality on television in 1995, when he was serving as an honorary bishop in Ripon and Leeds diocese. He was dismissed the following year for conducting blessings of same-sex couples.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post in 1995, Rawcliffe said he faced the issue of his sexual identity when he was working in Melanesia, and realized he loved a young man who had made approaches.
"I began to love everybody in a new way and to see that in spite of our sins and failings, God loves us," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Later, however, Rawcliffe befriended and corresponded with Susan Speight, who had what he called a "miraculous healing" from a disease which had put her in a wheelchair. He said he asked, "God, do you want me to marry her?" and he did so in 1977. She died in 1989.
Rawcliffe served as bishop of Glasgow and Galloway from 1980 to 1991.
In retirement, Rawcliffe continued to minister at St. Aidan's.
"Derek has contributed substantially in Leeds, both to our worship, through St. Aidan's, and to the care of and concern about asylum seekers," said John Packer, the bishop of Ripon and Leeds.