Ian Deighton Corbett was born in Birmingham, England, in 1942, and graduated from the University of Cambridge, where he returned to complete ordination training. He worked in the Diocese of Manchester for 18 years. During that time he was an active member of C.H.E., the then fledgling Gay Liberation Front (which sometimes met in his rectory) and the local branch of the Gay Christian Movement (as it was then called). Greatly encouraged by Richard Kirker, who remains a hero to Ian, he was particularly active among young people and students, counselling, lecturing on gay issues and Christianity, and exploring new theological approaches that largely still remain to be written up. As a pioneer of ecumenical chaplaincy in Colleges of Further Education and as clergy training officer for the diocese, Ian found many opportunities to conscientise and inform. He advisd bishops on gay issues and did pastoral work among gay clergy.
Corbett moved to Africa in 1987, first as a seminary principal and later as a lay training officer. Again he found himself helping young people come to terms with sexual issues, teaching sexual ethics and training to enable Africans to be more open and relaxed in an area of experience that is difficult for them. He developed several theories about how human sexuality is described and experienced in southern Africa, which have been used in seminars but not yet committed to print. He contributed a chapter to the ground-breaking publication, Aliens in the Household of God, edited by Paul Germond and Steve deGruchy; published by David Philip, 1997. In Botswana, Ian was instrumental in establishing an AIDS hospice in Gaborone and was involved in the pastoral care of AIDS sufferers in the slums of the city.
Corbett became Dean of Tuam in Eire in 1997, when he also was invited to contribute to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement's advisory booklet for the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops ("Called to Full Humanity," edited by Cristina Sumners, LGCM 1998). This modest essay caused a furor in the Church of Ireland and resulted in much media exposure and lecture invitations--incredible in 1998. This also produced a flood of correspondence from isolated gay men in rural areas and their families. Indeed, a considerable part of Ian's ministry has been sustaining gay life in remote rural areas. When he began to feel that his position in the church was becoming untenable, i.e., there was not support from his bishop or archbishop, he returned to native ministry, this time in North America.
In the middle of Saskatchewan, Canada, Ian worked with remote and degraded reservations, where he established a group and network for gay people. He also worked on the theology of sexuality in an indigenous context. Now, in Navajoland, U.S.A., he continues this exploration, is working on a book, networks with AIDS support groups and offers retreats for gay groups. He notes that "only my itinerant ministry accounts for my single state!"
Corbett wrote an autobiography, entitled A Disreputable Priest: Being Gay in Anti-Gay Cultures (Gilead Book Publishing 2015). In 2022, he co-wrote Seeking Meaning--Prayer as a Quest with Chris Dunton (Pendlebury Press Ltd.)
(This biographical statement provided by Ian Deighton Corbett.)
Biography Date: May, 2004
Church of England (Anglican) | Kirker, Richard | Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (United Kingdom) | AIDS | Author/editor | Clergy Activist | Native American Spirituality
“Very Rev. Ian D. Corbett | Profile”, LGBTQ Religious Archives Network, accessed May 29, 2023, https://lgbtqreligiousarchives.org/profiles/ian-d-corbett.
“Ian used to teach Religious Knowledge at St. James’ C of E Secondary School in the seventies. A very popular guy who everyone loved. He did a very special thing for me and my girlfriend - then, Anne Worthington. Anne and I moved to Romford in Essex for our work purposes. We wanted to get married at St. James’ Church in Farnworth because all our family lived there but because we lived out of the parish, this was not granted. Ian obtained a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury so we could and actually married us. We don’t know how much the special license cost because Ian wouldn’t take any money from us. Top Guy.”
– as remembered by Richard & Anne Harrison on June 6, 2021
“I attended KESFW (King Edward VI Five Ways School) from 1954-61, a year behind Ian, who stayed on a year to get into Cambridge. Ian was a legendary student, top in everything, along with his fellow classmate Trevor Horton, though neither of them distinguished themselves on the playing fields. Despite this, and just by being himself, Ian was a very popular and respected member of the Five Ways student hierarchy, humble and generous, particularly when it came to reading the Bible at morning prayers. A top guy, I wish him well.”
– as remembered by Barry Arnold on May 10, 2015
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