Derrick Sherwin Bailey

Derrick Sherwin Bailey (30 June 1910 – 9 February 1984) was an English Christian theologian, born at Alcester in Warwickshire, whose 1955 work Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition paved the way for the production of the 1957 Wolfenden report and for the Parliament of the United Kingdom's decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales a decade later.

"Under the guidance of the Rev. Dr. Derrick Sherwin Bailey (1910-84), a group of clergy, doctors and lawyers studied the existing materials on homosexuality. They then produced a privately printed pamphlet titled The Problem of Homosexuality. This interim report, written by Bailey, signalled the first twentieth-century extended treatment of homosexuality by an ecclesiastical body. Not only did it examine the current medical, psychological, and sociological literature, but it also sought to address the role of the Church of England in the issue of reforming the law. The Moral Welfare Council recognized the role of the State in regulating society, but it also acknowledged that the rights of the homosexual were being violated, and this issue needed to be addressed.
"Bailey's writings helped the Church of England to respond to the theological issue of homosexuality, to homosexuals themselves, as well as to the laws of England. This 1954-5 period in the Moral Welfare Council provided important conceptual guidelines for subsequent discussions about homosexuality, not only in the Church of England but throughout Christendom."[1]

While working on the pamphlet, Bailey independently completed Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition. It was criticized for exonerating the Church for persecuting homosexuals, yet it is still considered a landmark work on this topic. He scrutinized both the Bible and subsequent thought, drawing focus to some heretofore ignored issues, such as intertestamental literature, legislation of Christian emperors, the penitentials, and the link between heresy and sodomy.

Bailey testified to the Wolfenden Committee in support of the reform of the laws on homosexuality. The historian Patrick Higgins describes some of Bailey's other views an "interesting cocktail of beliefs". Higgins lists Bailey as believing that homosexuality will eventually disappear "because he thought that modern people would create better marriages, which in turn would make better homes, producing children who would naturally follow the right sexual path". He also proposed that homosexual men should be invited into the homes of married heterosexuals in order so that the heterosexuals could "share some of their joy with them". While he believes male homosexuality to be pitied rather than criminalised, Higgins reports that he had little sympathy with lesbians: he considered lesbianism "socially more undesirable than male homosexuality".[2]

In 1962 Bailey became a Canon Residentiary of Wells Cathedral, publishing works on its history and dying in the city of Wells, Somerset.[3]


  1. Carey, Jonathan Sinclair. "D.S. Bailey and 'the Name Forbidden among Christians.'". Anglican Theological Review. The report compiled by Bailey for the Church of England's Moral Welfare Council to present to the Wolfenden Committee was actually entitled Sexual Offenders and Social Punishment.
  2. Higgins, Patrick (1996). Heterosexual Dictatorship. London: Fourth Estate. pp. 36–37. ISBN 1857023552.
  3. Grimley, Matthew (September 2012). "Bailey, Derrick Sherwin (1910–1984)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/101207. Retrieved 2015-04-27. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
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