Police question bishop over gay row

A bishop who suggested gay people should seek medical help to reorientate their sexuality is to be questioned by police.

The Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster, Bishop of Chester, is to be interviewed over statements made in a newspaper on Friday.

He is reported to have said that some people who are “primarily homosexual” can “reorientate themselves” with the help of psychiatrists.

“I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a medical specialist on the subject, that’s in the area of psychiatric health,” he commented in the Chester Chronicle.

Cheshire Constabulary has confirmed it had received a complaint about the article and was planning to speak to the bishop.

In a statement released by the police, Assistant Chief Constable Graeme Gerrard said: “We are aware of the article put in the Chester Chronicle and have received a complaint.

“We will examine the issues raised in the complaint and will speak to the reporter and the Bishop of Chester before considering any further action.”

A police spokesman added that a copy of the article would be sent to the Crown Prosecution Service to see if any offence has been committed.

The Bishop of Chester whose diocese takes in Cheshire, Wirral, Stockport, south Tameside and south Trafford, was unavailable for comment.

“Limits”

In previous statements he has said it is important to act with compassion towards gays and lesbians.

In a speech he made in June, he said: “I favour a reasonably tolerant, pastoral approach in the life of the Church to those who find themselves with homosexual feelings, and drawn into homosexual relationships.

“But there has to be limits.”

Dr Forster sits on a church body which recently produced a discussion paper called Some Issues in Human Sexuality, which examined homosexuality.

He was one of nine bishops who wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams condemning the appointment of the celibate gay canon Jeffrey John as Bishop of Oxford who later bowed to pressure and stood down before he was consecrated.

Dr Forster, who is married with four children, also opposed the appointment of the openly gay Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire, USA.

“Homosexuality”

Dr Forster’s comments have led to an angry response from a number of gay and lesbian Christians.

Rev Richard Kirker, General Secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, condemned the bishops comments saying they were “inflammatory and offensive”.

He said: “It is those who think like Dr Forster – not gays and lesbians who have a problem.

“Psychiatrists and doctors have long since abandoned any belief that homosexuality is an illness that could be cured.

“Only Christian fundamentalists devote their energies in this direction.

“Dr Forster’s prejudices will not be solved by a visit to the doctor, nor will lesbian and gay people go away and get ‘cured’ to help him live with them.”

The worldwide Anglican community is facing a split over the issue of gay clergy.

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