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Christian ‘naturism’ advocate appointed Bishop of Sherborne

The Church of England has appointed as Bishop of Sherborne a leading advocate of Christian nudism. On 26 Nov 2015 the Prime Minister’s Office announced the The Queen had approved the nomination of the Ven Karen Gorham, the Archdeacon of Buckingham, to the Suffragan See of Sherborne in the diocese of Salisbury in succession to the Rt Rev. Graham Kings.

The new Bishop of Sherborne, who will be consecrated in February at Westminster Abbey, has urged churches to educate their members on naturism, or nudism. “There is need for much education and openness to talk about issues of sexuality, to remove false taboos which we tend to have about our own bodies, and to define the differences between what is impure and what is godly and properly natural to us,” she wrote in “Naturism and Christianity: Are they compatible?”.

Archdeacon Gorham was educated at the University of Bristol and trained for the ministry at Trinity College, Bristol. She served her title at Northallerton with Kirby Sigston in the diocese of York from 1995 to 1999 and went on to become Priest-in-Charge of St Paul’s, Maidstone in the diocese of Canterbury. She took up her current role as Archdeacon of Buckingham in 2007. A member of the General Synod for the past 12 years, she has served as a member of the Panel of Chairs for the past two years.

The 10 Downing Street press release said Archdeacon Gorham’s “interests include travel and walking, the coast and Celtic spirituality. She enjoys days out with friends and an occasional visit to a good restaurant to sample the taster menu.”

The back cover of the 2000 pamphlet on Christian Naturism released by Grove Books she co-authored with David Leal notes Miss Gorham was not a practicing naturist at the time of publication, but “Karen knows and supports many naturists.”

The booklet argues that the naturist lifestyle is not incompatible with Christianity. A distinction must be drawn between “physical nakedness and sexual impurity” she argued, noting Scripture was agnostic on the subject, neither promoting nor banning social nudity.

Her book briefly surveys the Scriptural record on nudism and the church’s attitude towards the public display of the body, noting the place of societal attitudes towards the body in informing church views.

The modern naturist movement, which took form in the 1920s, was not an expression of sexual license, she writes. “Some naturists say that it is more fitting for a Christian than a non-Christian to be a naturist given that Christians are new creations living before God, who need not know that shame which gives nakedness such symbolic potency.”

Archdeacon Gorham explains: “Naturists believe that the ‘hang up’ about the body being shameful in itself, in whatever way, is both morally wrong and mentally harmful. This points to the fundamental difference of attitude between naturists, who are not frightened or ashamed of their bodies, and that of much of the world, which would seem to be so. In naturism one realizes that there are no truly private parts; all parts of the body serve their proper and honourable purpose, and in this respect we are all alike.”

She and Dr. Leal concluded: “from this review of the different aspects of nakedness that there is no essential conflict between Christianity and naturism, that there is nothing inherently sinful about the naked body, and that the realization of this is part of what it means to be at ease with oneself, to be healed, to be made whole.”

In a statement released on the Diocese of Salisbury website, Archdeacon Gorham wrote she was looking “ forward to getting to know the people and places of Dorset, an area I have loved since childhood holidays.”

The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt. Rev. Nicholas Holtam stated Archdeacon Gorham “emerged as the right person for this post from a company of excellent men and women considered equally. The Anglo-Saxon Church included women in authority as well as men, like St Cuthberga of Wimborne and St Edith of Wilton. Karen’s appointment is good news for Salisbury and for the Church of England.”

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