Anglican gay row continues as gay priest rejects bishop post
July 8, 2003
LONDON - The Anglican church was Monday struggling to repair a rift
between its conservative and liberal wings on the issue of
homosexuality after the nomination of an openly gay clergyman in
Britain as a bishop.
The conservatives appeared to have gained the upper hand after
Jeffrey John on Sunday withdrew his acceptance of the post of
Bishop of Reading, west of London.
The clergyman, who has had a male partner for 27 years, but says
it is now a celibate relationship, said he had made his decision
"in view of the damage my consecration might cause to the unity of
British newspapers suggested that he was forced into his move
after pressure from the staff of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the
church's spiritual leader, who feared John's appointment could
spark a devastating split in the church and its 70 million
Conservative Anglicans across the world fear in particular that
the liberal wing of the church is moving secretly to promote gay
Senior British clerics lobbied the archbishop, Rowan Williams,
over John's appointment, warning of a break-up of the church. They
were supported by clergy from overseas.
"Dr John's decision to withdraw has averted a major crisis in
the Church of England, (and) though the challenge facing the Church
of England is lessened ... the crisis for the worldwide Anglican
Church continues," said Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney,
He said the church must now turn its attention to the Canadian
diocese of New Westminster, which has blessed same-sex marriages,
and the Episcopal church in the United States, where an openly gay
priest was recently elected as bishop in New Hampshire.
In Africa, many bishops have denounced homosexuality as an
abomination. Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, where he
leads some 17 million Christians, has already broken links with the
New Westminster diocese in Canada.
Despite withdrawing from his appointment as a bishop, John, who
is based at London's Southwark Cathedral, still has several
powerful allies in his corner representing the more liberal wing of
the Anglican establishment.
The Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee, said John's refusal to accept
the post of bishop was a "catastrophe" for the church.
Slee told BBC radio the affair has stained the church with
prejudice and "seriously undermined" the authority of the
Archbishop of Canterbury.
"The people talk about empty churches. Empty churches may well
be empty because of the image that we are presenting of narrowness
and bigotry and prejudice," Slee said.
"This is not a bad message simply for gay people. This is a bad
message for many heterosexual and open-minded and intelligent
Christians who approach the Bible with a lot of thoughtfulness and
will feel that that ability is not there for them."
The previous Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, disclosed
Sunday he appointed several gay bishops during his tenure of office
between 1991 and 2002, though he said he did so after they
privately assured him that they were celibate.
Gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who stormed Carey's
pulpit in 1998 to condemn the church's stance on homosexuality,
said John's withdrawal had been decreed by "ecclesiastical bigots."
"The Archbishop of Canterbury has capitulated to the forces of
homophobia within the church," Tatchell added.
Williams said Sunday that the church was facing a time of "open
and painful confrontation" in which bonds of mutual trust had been
It also showed that the level of "foolish and hurtful prejudice
in our society is still uncomfortably high".
Oz bishop says gay UK priest decision averts church crisis [08/07/03]