New CofE bishop Karen Gorham supports Christian naturism

Archdeacon of Buckingham, Karen Gorham. A pic from the blog of the Church of England's latest woman bishop.Karen Gorham

The Church of England's newest bishop is an advocate of Christian naturism.

The appointment of the Archdeacon of Buckingham, Ven Karen Gorham, to be Bishop of Sherborne in Dorset, was announced yesterday. She will be the Church's eighth woman bishop and sixth woman suffragan. The Church of England has been appointing women bishops at the rate of about two in every three months since the measure to consecrate women was enacted by General Synod a year ago.

In 2000 she wrote a pamphlet on Christian Naturism with David Leal, released by Grove Books. The cover notes: "Although not herself a naturist Karen knows and supports many involved in naturism."

The booklet looks at difference expressions of naturism, noting that for many people it is an expression of their desire to live in harmony with nature and has nothing to do with sex. It says: "The connection of nakedness and sex, though it may seem inescapable, need not necessarily be so." Asking, "Must nude be crude?" the book answers: "No; life in a naturist club, or a naturist resort, is just about doing things which one generally does with clothes on, but unclothed when the circumstances permit it."

It notes that "many naturists belong to local churches and regularly worship God; obviously such people see no conflict between Christian morality and regular social nudity."

Gorham and Leal conclude that there are "no biblical grounds either for a promotion of social nudity or for placing a complete ban on it. Clearly, though, there is an important distinction to be drawn between physical nakedness and sexual impurity."

They also call for "education and openness" about sexual issues in churches and the need to remove "false taboos".

On her appointment, Gorham said: "Dorset is a place of story, from Enid Blyton to Thomas Hardy, whose poetry I particularly enjoy, and we all have a unique story to tell, as individuals and as Christian communities, of God's love and grace. That's our witness to the world, and our biggest challenge is to have the confidence to share it."

She said she had always given herself wholeheartedly to God's call on her life. "As someone who has not married, over the years I've discovered the importance of friendship. Knowing the support of others throughout life is vital for us all, and in all the places I have lived and served I have been sustained through some particular friendships, people with whom I go on being able to share the joys and sorrows of day to day life with as well as hobbies and interests."