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Gay prelate who turned down bishop's post says he has support

Sue Leeman | July 17, 2003

LONDON - A gay clergyman who decided not to take up a bishop's post after fierce criticism has urged his supporters to stay in the Church of England and fight prejudice from within.

The appointment of Canon Jeffrey John exposed deep divisions among Anglicans and he announced last week that he would not be taking up the appointment as bishop of Reading.

In a letter to the Reading Chronicle newspaper published Thursday, John said many Christians in Reading had been happy to accept him.

"I have received literally thousands of messages, including many hundreds from the Reading area," John wrote. "The overwhelming majority of them have been friendly and supportive.

"As well as messages from Anglican clergy and laity, many came from leaders and representatives of other denominations and of other faiths, looking forward to our working together.

"This avalanche of kindness has left me all the more saddened and disappointed that I cannot now come to serve you as your bishop. I have received an impression of Reading, and of the great majority of Reading Christians, as instinctively fair, welcoming, accepting, and willing to give a stranger (even one with a 'gay' label) a chance to prove himself."

He added that many of those who had written "have said that they are tempted to leave the church in disgust." Although this reaction was understandable, he said, "it is not the way. We have to keep praying, keep making our communion, keep studying the scriptures, keep loving those who hurt and reject us.

"Love wins in the end, and if we are faithful, in the end we will build a church that looks more like Jesus, and that will truly be a home for all God's children."

In declining the post, John wrote to Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries, who appointed him, that he had made the decision because of "the damage my consecration might cause to the unity of the Church, including the Anglican Communion."

Several Anglican bishops from around the world wrote to oppose John's selection by Harries in May, saying the appointment violated church teaching that gay sex is "incompatible with Scripture."

John has said he is in a long-term relationship with another man but that he has been celibate since the 1990s and would uphold church policy on sexuality. - Sapa-AP

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