Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia

Harriet Sherwood Religion correspondent
Jeffrey John: ‘A number of homophobic remarks were made and were left unchecked and unreprimanded by the chair.’ Photograph: PA

A senior Anglican clergyman has accused the Church in Wales of homophobia, claiming he was rejected for appointment as bishop of Llandaff after objections to his sexuality were raised.

Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans Cathedral, has said he was told that bishops considering the appointment “were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems they believed my appointment would cause”. This, he said, “is not a moral or legal basis on which to exclude me”.

John was formally told on Friday that he would not receive further consideration in the process of the appointment of the next bishop of Llandaff, which will now be made by a panel of bishops.

Reports have 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, the 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 the Church in Wales allow clergy to be in same-sex relationships and civil partnerships as long as they are celibate.

In a letter to John Davies, the bishop of Swansea and Brecon, currently the Welsh church’s most senior bishop, John said he had been told by a bishop present at the meeting of the electoral college that “a number of homophobic remarks were made and were left unchecked and unreprimanded by the chair”.

He added that 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”.

John wrote: “The injustice of the arguments ... was pointed out to you several times in the college by the Llandaff electors and by 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, who is also in a same sex relationship], which was recently defended by the secretary general of the ACC [Anglican Consultative Council], Archbishop Idowu-Fearon, as being entirely compatible with the regulations of any Anglican province.”

After the electoral college process failed to produce a result, the decision passed to senior bishops who sought views from the diocese. According to John, many people – “we suspect hundreds” – wrote to support his candidature

His letter said: “You decided, arbitrarily, to ignore the submissions that 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.”

A spokesperson for the Church in Wales said: “At the recent meeting of Electoral College no one candidate secured the necessary two-thirds majority to be elected Bishop of Llandaff.

“The appointment will now be made by the Church’s bishops. After a process of consultation they have drawn up a shortlist of names which is confidential. However, the Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”

In his final address before retiring in January, Barry Morgan, the former archbishop of Wales, urged the church to rethink its stance on same-sex couples, saying the Bible had more than one view on homosexuality.

“One cannot argue that there is one accepted traditional way of interpreting scripture that is true and orthodox and all else is modern revisionism, culturally conditioned ... so taking the Bible as a whole and taking what it says very seriously may lead us into a very different view of same-sex relationships than the one traditionally upheld by the church,” he said.

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