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Southwark Wannabe Bishop is No Friend of Church of England's Orthodox Wing

Southwark Wannabe Bishop Jeffrey John is No Friend of Church of England's Orthodox Wing
Christ's crucifixion "repulsive" and "insane", says Dean
His appointment could split the C of E

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue
July 6, 2010

Friends of Southwark wannabe bishop Jeffrey John, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Canon Giles Fraser who tout him as a fine theologian, well trained and with all the right credentials for the job, should think twice, perhaps three times before recommending him for the job. It is not just his homosexuality they should worry about; it's his theology.

In 2007 at an Easter service, he delivered the view that Christ did not die for our sins. He went on to say that the Church's traditional teaching of Christ's crucifixion is "repulsive" and "insane".

The Very Rev. Jeffrey John, who had to withdraw before taking up an appointment as bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a long-term homosexual relationship, said clergy who preach at Easter that Christ was sent to earth to die in atonement for all the sins of mankind are "making God sound like a psychopath".

John went on to urge a revision of the traditional explanation, known as "penal substitution".

Christian theology has taught that because humans have sinned, God sent Christ as a substitute to suffer and die in our place.

"In other words, Jesus took the rap and we got forgiven as long as we said we believed in him," said John. "This is repulsive as well as nonsensical. It makes God sound like a psychopath. If a human behaved like this, we'd say that they were a monster." The Dean went on to offer an alternative interpretation, suggesting that Christ was crucified so he could "share in the worst of grief and suffering that life can throw at us".

The Rt. Rev. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, accused John of attacking the fundamental message of the Gospel. Other church figures have also expressed dismay at his comments, which they have condemned as a "deliberate perversion of the Bible". http://tinyurl.com/2eelm7c

"He is denying the way in which we understand Christ's sacrifice. It is right to stress that He is a God of love, but he is ignoring that this means He must also be angry at everything that distorts human life," Wright said.

Bishop Wright criticized the BBC for allowing such a prominent slot to be given to such a provocative argument. "I'm fed up with the BBC for choosing to give privilege to these unfortunate views in Holy Week," he said. Wright went on to say that John caricatured the cross. http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=5787

And this is the man who is on a short list of candidates to become the next Bishop of Southwark, an ultra liberal diocese not unlike the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles, CA or Newark, NJ in the United States.

He would also be the Church of England's first openly homosexual bishop (there are others who have never come out of the closet, VOL has learned) in good company with New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson living with another man in a civilly recognized relationship.

Of course the irony of his possible appointment is that if the members of the Crown Appointments Commission (CNC) choose his name to go forward to the prime minister and onwards to HM the Queen, the election of Jeffrey John would violate the Windsor Report, which in effect means Dr Williams would need to smack his own ecclesiastical bottom for violating both it, the current moratorium, and the Covenant which is to be debated at the General Synod of the Church of England which begins on 9 July.

Canon Dr. Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream rightly saw the seriousness of this appointment and cited The Apostle Paul's letter to Timothy:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry [2 Timothy 4:3-5, RSV]

The Rev. Rod Thomas, of the evangelical group Reform, accused John of "attacking the fundamental nature of the Gospel". Reform, which represents about 600 clergy, opposed John's nomination as bishop in 2003.

Thomas stated, "Dr John's teaching regarding homosexual practice is contrary to both the Bible and to the current doctrine of the Church of England. To appoint him Bishop would send two very clear signals. First, that the diocese of Southwark wants to walk in a different direction to the Church of England's doctrine. Second that there is now little to stop the Church of England proceeding in the same divisive direction as the Episcopal Church in the USA. We would support churches in Southwark seeking alternative oversight should Dr John be appointed."

Furthermore as one blogger observed, "you cannot write books such as 'permanent, faithful, stable', which campaign for sex outside of traditional marriage, at a time of genuine struggle in the church and then expect to fly under the radar. This brings us to the heart of the debate. Here is a man who has campaigned for something which until very recently would have been considered very risky and which is still considered unbiblical by a great many people. Such campaigning has obvious implications and he now lives with the fallout." Indeed

Other irregularities about John's life have also bubbled to the surface. An article in the "Daily Telegraph" in June 2003 http://tinyurl.com/288rhl9 said he had been untruthful in a statement he had given about his domestic arrangements. The article ran with the headline "Gay bishop and curate boyfriend bought flat together last year." Dr John insisted that he and his boyfriend, whom he did not identify, had not been sexually active for a decade. He added, "My partner and I have never lived together (apart from one brief period while he was moving house) because our separate ministries have never made it possible to do so. However, we rely on each other for support and spend as much free time together as possible."

However, the Diocese of Oxford confirmed that the men jointly own a £235,000 flat in Roehampton, Southwest London, near the church where Mr. Holmes works. They hold regular dinner parties there. Friends have told The Telegraph that before buying the flat last year, Mr. Holmes may have used Dr John's Southwark house as a correspondence address. The disclosures have further angered critics, who say the statements given by Dr John last week were misleading. The issue of truthfulness is as pertinent now as it was in 2003. Canon Sugden said there were important reasons why Dr John, originally from Tonyrefail in south Wales, should not be the Bishop of Southwark.

"He is in a registered civil partnership. Now the Church of England does not believe civil partnerships are the equivalent of marriage.

"Secondly, Dr John, by his own admission, was in an active gay relationship a number of years ago. And he is now said to be celibate, that is fine, one takes that at face value.

"However, think of the parallel, say somebody was nominated to high government office, say the cabinet, and they had been involved in fiddling their expenses a number of years ago and never, never apologized or said it was wrong.

"It is breaking the law of the Church in the sense of Christian teaching... the teaching still is that active homosexual practice is not compatible with the teaching of scripture," Sugden concluded.

Dr. John bitterly opposed the teaching of Lambeth 1:10 which still represents the official mind of the Anglican Communion and argues that sound arguments about homosexual relationships can be made from scripture and tradition in favor of Christians accepting same-sex relationships, provided they are based on a personal covenant of lifelong faithfulness.

It is ironic that Dr. Williams and others keep telling us that bishops are consecrated for the whole Communion. If so, how can he justify such an appointment as Jeffrey John especially as he has come down hard on the election of Mary Glasspool, Suffragan Bishop of Los Angeles, saying it threatens the already fragile relationships in the communion.

Wrote one blogger, "One does have to wonder at the appointments to the House of Bishops here being made at the moment: divorced bishops, gay bishops as well as women bishops. Is the plan to isolate the Church of England from the rest of the Communion? I am amazed at the fecklessness."

Is there a death wish? Why should the ABC and his Affirming Catholic friends stuff this small clique of Inclusive Church types into vacant dioceses? If this appointment goes ahead, Williams will have no authority to berate Jefferts Schori and the Episcopal Church House of Bishops should they decide to elect yet another openly homosexual or lesbian to the episcopacy. After all, Jeffrey John is closer in spirit and theology to Jack Spong than Jesus Christ.

The Church of England's pansexual organization Changing Attitude described conservative evangelicals reaction to the news about Jeffrey John and Southwark and their so-called threats of separation as "abusive behaviour." But it is not Anglican Mainstream or REFORM who have moved away from the 'faith once for all delivered to the saints' it is the Church of England's pansexualists and people like Colin Coward.

What would really rock the Church of England's boat should Jeffrey John be appointed, is if those evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parishes in the Diocese of Southwark were to seek alternative pastoral oversight and in their wisdom give ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan a call. Who could blame them?


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