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First openly gay Anglican bishop tells ITV News: 'I am who I am... There's never been any secret'

The first Anglican bishop to come out as a gay man in a relationship has appealed for understanding as the church confronted a reignited internal debate over same-sex relationships.

The Bishop of Grantham, Nicholas Chamberlain, told ITV News that he had never hidden his sexuality - and called on others to respect "human dignity".

It comes as conservative Anglican group Gafcon said it was a "major error" for the church to knowingly appoint a gay bishop and the decision could exacerbate "deep divisions" within the church over same-sex relationships.

Chamberlain today told ITV News he had chosen to speak out to explain he was in a committed relationship with another man after it was suggested a newspaper might 'out' him as gay.

He said those who had contacted him directly had been very supportive but he understood there was a "range of opinions" within the church.

My sexuality is part of who I am, and always has been. I am a gay man, I am who I am, and who I am is trying to serve God's people as well as I can.

I do understand there there is a range of opinion on this matter within the church, both in England and worldwide.

I want to emphasise my commitment to working with everyone, whatever their opinion and whatever their understanding to recognise our human dignity and to work together as God's people.

– Nicholas Chamberlain, Bishop of Grantham
The Bishop of Grantham is the first Anglican Bishop to come out as gay and in a relationship

He said he was not surprised by the attention following his announcement, explaining that he realised while for many people, homosexuality was nothing out of the ordinary, for some people it was still an issue.

"For many people this is quite normal. We have gay teachers, gay police officers - a gay bishop," he said.

"This is what it is - human beings going about their daily life. For many of those people perhaps that isn't going to be an issue - but for some people it is, and to that extent, no, I'm not surprised.

"I have a job to do and a life to live, and people to do that with. And that's what matters to me."

Justin Welby was apparently aware of Chamberlain's sexuality before he made him bishop Credit: PA

The church's main leader, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said that he had been aware of Chamberlain's relationship for some time and viewed it as "completely irrelevant" to his role.

Chamberlain has indicated that he remains celibate so as to comply with the church guidelines on same-sex relationships.

The revelation over his sexuality has upset more conservative elements within the church and reignited debate over same-sex relationships.

A Church of England spokesman said it had been clear that it would be "unjust" to exclude anyone on the basis of their sexuality.

"Whilst Bishop Nick's appointment is notable in the gifts and talents that he brings to the episcopate, it is wholly consistent and unexceptional in other regards given the testing of that call by those responsible for the selection process in each case."

Gafcon said that it was "clear" the bishop had "many gifts as a leader and pastor" - but argued that his appointment would lead many Anglicans to believe the faith was being "eroded".

There are aspects of this appointment which are a serious cause for concern for Biblically orthodox Anglicans around the world, and therefore we believe that this appointment is a major error.

– Gafcon statement

The statement added the "element of secrecy" over the bishop's sexuality at the time of his appointment "gives the impression that it has been arranged with the aim of presenting the church with a ‘fait accompli’, rather than engaging with possible opposition in the spirit of the ‘shared conversations’."