Dean de­nied post of bishop ac­cuses Church in Wales of ho­mo­pho­bia

The Guardian - - NEWS - Har­riet Sher­wood Re­li­gion cor­re­spon­dent

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

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