Dean denied post of bishop accuses Church in Wales of homophobia
A senior Anglican clergyman has accused the Church in Wales of homophobia, claiming he was rejected for the appointment of bishop of Llandaff after objections to his sexuality were raised.
Jeffrey John, dean of St Albans cathedral, said he was told that bishops considering the appointment were “just too exhausted to deal with the problems they believed [the] appointment would cause”. This, he said, was “not a moral or legal basis” for his exclusion.
John was formally told on Friday that he would not receive further consideration for the Llandaff bishop appointment, which will now be made by a panel of bishops. Reports suggested he won more than half the votes in the electoral college considering the appointment but failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority.
In 2003 John was nominated as bishop of Reading, but was asked by Rowan Williams, then archbishop of Canterbury, to stand aside after some traditionalists threatened to leave the Church of England if his consecration went ahead.
John has a long-term relationship with Grant Holmes, another C of E clergyman, and the couple entered a civil partnership in 2006. Both the C of E and Church in Wales allow clergy to be in same-sex relationships and civil partnerships as long they are celibate.
In a letter to John Davies, bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Welsh church’s most senior bishop, John said he had been told by a bishop at the electoral college meeting that “a number of homophobic remarks were made and left unchecked and unreprimanded by the chair”.
He said the only arguments made against his appointment “were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership – namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese, and that it might create difficulties for the future archbishop [of Wales] in relation to the Anglican communion”. He added in the letter: “The injustice of the arguments … was pointed out to you several times in the college by the Llandaff electors and others. This is precisely the way that anti-gay discrimination always works.
“You were also reminded that I am in a celibate relationship. My situation is exactly similar to that of the bishop of Grantham [Nicholas Chamberlain] which was recently defended by the secretarygeneral of the [Anglican consultative council], archbishop Idowu-Fearon, as being entirely compatible with the regulations of any Anglican province.”
After the electoral college process failed to get a result, the decision passed to senior bishops who sought views from the diocese. According to John, many people wrote to support his candidature. His letter said: “You decided, arbitrarily, to ignore the submissions you had asked for … This is a clear and ludicrous breach of process, and a further insult to the people of the diocese and very many others who took the trouble to contribute their view.”
Davies’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Barry Morgan, former archbishop of Wales, in his final address before retiring in January, urged the church to rethink its stance on same-sex couples, saying the Bible had more than one view on homosexuality. “One cannot argue there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned. [Taking what the Bible] says very seriously may lead us to a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the church.”
Jeffrey John believes he was excluded from becoming a bishop after an electoral college said his sexuality may bring the diocese unsettling publicity