UK: Gay cleric Jeffrey John could become Britain's first openly homosexual bishop
An openly gay cleric is in line to become a bishop, in a move that could plunge the Anglican Communion into fresh crisis over homosexuality.
By Martin Beckford Religious Affairs Correspondent
Sept. 1, 2008
The Very Rev Jeffrey John was appointed Bishop of Reading five years ago but was forced to stand down by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a personal friend of his, after the election sparked outrage among conservatives.
He was later made the Dean of St Albans but is now being considered for the post of Bishop of Bangor in North Wales, following the death of the previous incumbent from cancer in June.
Insiders believe 55-year-old Dr John is highly likely to be chosen, because he is a Welsh speaker as well as being a respected theologian.
In addition, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, recently admitted he would support the election of a gay bishop despite opposition among orthodox Anglicans and guidelines stating that practising homosexuals should not become clergy.
His appointment would likely deepen the crisis in the 80 million-strong worldwide church over homosexuality.
Dr John has long campaigned for the church to relax its opposition to homosexuality, and is in a civil partnership with his long-term partner, the Rev Grant Holmes, although he insists their relationship is celibate.
Shortly after the row over his appointment in 2003, the Communion was "fractured" by the election of the Rt Rev Gene Robinson, who is openly gay and in an active sexual relationship, as the Bishop of New Hampshire.
Hundreds of American clergy and parishioners deserted the liberal Episcopal Church in protest, triggering bitter legal disputes over church property, while orthodox Anglican leaders across the world are forging ahead with a rival movement for those who believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is sinful.
At last month's once-a-decade summit of Anglican bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, urged liberals not to inflame tensions by electing any more gay bishops.
But the Rt Rev David Anderson, President of the American Anglican Council which represents conservative clergy, claims the "moratorium" is now likely to be broken in Wales.
He wrote in a letter to AAC members this week: "Wales is in an election process for Bishop of Bangor and the election has as one of its still-secret nominees none other than Jeffrey John, sometime bishop designee for Reading, who had to withdraw when the appointment created an uproar.
"Failing to take the prize home with him, he was given an appointment as a Cathedral Dean to console him, but it now appears that some stock options for the future were thrown in as well.
"Although being on the slate is no guarantee of an election, it is clearly something that Archbishop Morgan desires, having said that practising homosexuals should not be barred from becoming bishops, and having called the opponents of such consecrations 'exclusive and narrow-minded'."
An official in the Church in Wales said: "He's Welsh, he's a Welsh speaker and he's a high-ranking clergyman so his name may well be put forward."
The Rev Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney, added: "Being celibate, he meets all the criteria that have been set out in the church's position on homosexuality. He would make an excellent bishop, and it's about time."
The clergy of Bangor and bishops of Wales will meet next Wednesday to discuss the vacant role while the election of the next bishop will take place on October 10. The successful candidate must win two-thirds of the votes.
Dr John is currently on holiday and was unavailable for comment.
For information on changes to VOL comments, please see this FAQ entry.
comments powered by Disqus
Follow VOL on Social Networks: