In a series of vox pop interviews, BBC Radio Wiltshire has been assessing reaction to the appointment of naturist enthusiast Karen Gorham as suffragan Bishop of Sherborne, in the Church of England.
‘Karen stands in a long line of naturist women who have distinguished themselves by their courage and determination’, claimed Nick Holtam, 61, Bishop of Salisbury. ‘One thinks of Ceaseburga of Blandford and Mabel of Mere – feisty women of Anglo-Saxon times who were not ashamed to employ their God-given talents in the service of the church.’
‘After the Naked Civil Servant I suppose the next thing is the naked bishop,’ said Michael Henchard, 68, Mayor of Casterbridge. ‘Young women seem to wear less and less these days.’
Melanie Saxby, 46, churchwarden of Rhyme Extrinsica was not so welcoming. ‘I have been opposed to women bishops from the very start,’ she said, ‘I suppose I always knew it would come to this.’
Others were more theological in their approach. ‘Though Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Jerome and Augustine all condemned nakedness in the bath houses of their day, others, like the monk Jovinian, took the opposite view,’ commented Joan Arkwright, 37, Moderator of the South West Ordination Course. ‘In these days of declining numbers evangelism is our priority. We simply cannot afford to exclude thousands of convinced naturists from our outreach.’
Christianity and Naturism: Are They Compatible? Karen Gorham and David Neal, Grove Books, 2000, pp24, ISBN-13: 978-1851744361, is available from Amazon, price £38.09.