Church’s gay rights advocate is made a bishop
One of the Church of England’s most prominent advocates of gay rights, who has called for the ordination of practising homosexuals and blessings of gay marriages, has been appointed a bishop.
In a development which will dismay traditionalists, Canon Jeffrey John, the Chancellor and Canon Theologian of Southwark Cathedral, was yesterday named by Downing Street as the new Suffragan Bishop of Reading.
His elevation will give fresh impetus to the Church’s gay rights movement and reflects the new mood since Dr Rowan Williams, who has admitted ordaining a practising homosexual, became Archbishop of Canterbury.
His predecessor, Dr George Carey, who warned that the Church was on the brink of a fundamental split over the issue, is unlikely to have welcomed the appointment.
Dr John, 50, who has declined to comment on his own sexuality, has been an outspoken campaigner for gay rights for decades, and last year contributed to a collection of prayers for homosexuals. It included prayers for same-sex marriages, sex changes and “fantasy and fetish”.
Dr John, a former Dean of Magdalen College, Oxford, has said: “I don’t think there is any alternative to the bishops demanding discretion to ordain whoever they think fit.
“Probably more than half of them have been ordaining and supporting positively gay clergy for years.”
His appointment was made by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, a liberal who heads the House of Bishops’ working party on sexuality, after consultations with Dr Williams.
An Oxford diocese spokesman said Dr John continued to hold his controversial views privately, but would publicly abide by the House of Bishops’ 1991 report Issues in Human Sexuality.
This document, which has been criticised by liberals including Dr Williams, argued that homosexual practice was unacceptable among clergy, though it might sometimes be condoned among the laity.
The Rev Rod Thomas, a spokesman for Reform, the conservative evangelical network, said: “This appointment will cause shock to many evangelicals.
“It will make them worry even more about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s own position, and reinforce their desire only to accept biblical ministry in their churches rather than the liberal opinions of some bishops.” Autor: Jonathan Petre