Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Crown Nominations Commission leaks again

Yesterday, Ruth Gledhill published a report concerning the recent Crown Nominations Commission meetings to select a new Bishop of Exeter.

The original report is behind the paywall of The Times but subscribers can find it here.

Much of its content is reproduced in this article in Pink News: Times claims Church of England ‘on the brink of appointing its first openly gay bishop’

…The paper claims the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John, came within one vote of being recommended as the new Bishop of Exeter.
It is thought to be the first time that Dr John has made the shortlist for a diocesan post, although he has been tipped for promotion several times before.
The successful candidate to succeed the Right Rev Michael Langrish as the Bishop of Exeter is to be announced soon.
Although he has missed out on the position, The Times claims Church sources say that it is only a matter of time before Dr John gets a diocesan post.
This year the Church of England dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. That was the change that allowed Dr John to be considered again after effectively being banned from the episcopacy since 2003.
The Crown Nominations Commission met in October to choose the new diocesan bishop for Exeter. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who would have had the casting vote in the event of a deadlock.
There are already meetings scheduled to choose the bishops to fill six diocesan vacancies next year. These are Europe, Hereford, Liverpool, Guildford, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Southwell and Nottingham. Besides Europe, Hereford and Guildford also have liberal traditions that might make Dr John an acceptable candidate…

The original article says that this is believed to be the first time the Dean of St Albans has been shortlisted for a diocesan bishopric. But back in 2010, when the bishopric of Southwark was under consideration, the contemporary reports suggest otherwise, see:

Telegraph Jonathan Wynne-Jones Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England

Australian reproducing The Times Gay bishop to divide Anglicans

TA coverage of the ensuing story started here, and ran for a considerable number of subsequent articles during the next couple of weeks.

And in May 2011, the Guardian published Colin Slee’s own account of the matter.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 10:32am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

The Times suggests that he did not win by 1 vote.
If that is true, would it mean that there was no tie and that Justin Welby's casting vote was not needed, or would that mean that this "1 vote" is his casting vote?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 12:11pm GMT

Erika the following link is to a very old article of mine, but it may be helpful in understanding the CNC voting procedures. I would welcome any informed update as to whether the procedures have changed at all since this was written.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 12:38pm GMT

The article in The Times is poorly edited - the phrase "first gay bishop" is used more than once, but that is simply not the situation.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 12:43pm GMT

Is there any news (if that's the right word) as to who was ultimately the choice?

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 12:56pm GMT

In response to Mark Bennet, use of the phrase 'openly gay' has been banned in The Times because we are not in the business of outing people. We are currently rewriting the style guide but I don't know if that interdiction will remain or not. Of course it places me as a journalist in a uniquely difficult position. I can however understand why we have adopted this usage. The meaning of the word 'gay' has changed several times over past centuries. Maybe it is now evolving to mean 'openly gay'. If bishops or anyone choose not to state publicly they are gay, that is surely their choice. Perhaps it is not for us to insinuate that there exist at all gay bishops who are not open about their sexuality, as the use of the phrase 'openly gay' inevitably implies. The real question is surely, if they are gay and unable to be open about it, then why? If it furthers the asking of that question, then The Times should be praised for 'good editing'.

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 1:59pm GMT

Telegraph url is of 03 Jul 2010 and so out of date now, here ?

Bishop Mervyn Stockwood (Southwark) was pretty 'openly gay' when he ordained me in 1978 and '79, knowing that I too was gay and pretty out too !

The DDO back then knew I was gay - I think he was too - name eludes me ! Also the parish priest Fr Nicholas (CEN) Richards accepted me for my Title with him, in Rotherhithe, knowing I came with my then partner, now civil partner, soon to be husband.

Get real, grow up !

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 2:13pm GMT

'Maybe it is now evolving to mean 'openly gay'. If bishops or anyone choose not to state publicly they are gay,' Ruth Gledhill

I thought The Times was still a newspaper if a shadow of its former self ?

Posted by: Revd Laurie Roberts on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 2:16pm GMT

I don't know how Dr John stands his current situation: constantly having his sex life a discussion in the press, being made to repeatedly promise that he isn't having sex in his relationship, being looked down on for being gay by the church and being looked down on for being an Uncle Tom by most gay people.

He seems sad that such a likable and well meaning chap should end up being thought so little of by so many people from both sides of the sexuality argument.

Posted by: CRW on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 3:28pm GMT


The Pink News article is slightly misleading as there are two CNC meetings, in the case of Exeter on 18 October 2013 and 6/7 November 2013. So, more leaks apart, it's likely to be sometime in January.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 3:52pm GMT

There are no shortage of biblical and other traditional stories in which a group of people, ostensibly working for the same aim, are confounded by fallings out and poor communication amongst themselves and thus their endeavour fails. The Ship of Fools, the Tower of Babylon, the list is endless.

And so, a debate about precisely what "first gay bishop" means. Yes, because in the content of the current debates on issues of homosexuality in the CofE, that's exactly the first thing that should be being discussed.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 3:58pm GMT

"then The Times should be praised for 'good editing'."

whereas I believe that most readers will see it as colluding with the pretence that there are no gay bishops in the CoE.
Whether that's the impression The Times wants to give is for the writers of its Style Guide to decide. But I think they should at least be aware that that is how most people will interpret it.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 4:19pm GMT

In answer to Ruth - I appreciate the nuances, but using "gay" as we do today, "first gay bishop" sounds like a factual inaccuracy rather than a matter of style or usage. The reason this is important is that "don't ask, don't tell" culture is being challenged. Some people still engage in the sexuality debate suggesting that they don't know any gay clergy, or there have not been gay bishops. A whole culture of dishonesty has made it almost impossible to have a sensible grown-up conversation, and it is important (to me) to avoid accidentally providing material to validate untrue fantasy positions "if we only act now, we can stop the CofE ever appointing a gay bishop". It is hard to pin down what exactly is at stake here in a few words, and as a journalist you are better at that than I am. The particular phrase jarred with me.

Posted by: Mark Bennet on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 4:29pm GMT

I find the premise of the article sad. Many other candidates will have been turned down at any number of CNC's recently (there seem to be so many vacancies) and we have a) no real evidence and b) no evidence that sexuality was the only reason. It also should be sad that nothing is confidential anymore, I did not sit on the CNC, see all the candidates and their applications/interviews so how do I know that John was unfairly treated?

Posted by: Paul on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 6:15pm GMT

Laurie: the rot set in with the notorious 'Higton' motion passed by Synod in 1987 in the hight of the Aids panic by 403 votes to 8 which confined sex within heterosexual marriage and forbade any outside. Before that as long as the horses weren't frightened there was an unacknowledged acceptance. Afterwards lies, hypocrisy, and dissembling became the norm and fear haunted the vicarages of the country, with intrusive bishops and axegrinding laity on the search for trangressors. It is this has resulted in the almost complete failure of gltb clergy to dare to be open and to participate in any 'listening process' and which, to my mind, means the Pilling proposals for yet further listening to be a dead letter. Unless and untill the 'Higton' motion is rescinded or superseded and 'Issues' looses its spurious authority there can be no real movement.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 6:30pm GMT

Richard Ashby: Higton is the roadblock alright. 'Issues' could be relegated back to being a "discussion document," but Higton, and its overwhelming majority, makes the entire church complicit.

I know that it was a panicked reaction to an ambush by an even worse motion, but cannot for the life of me understand why the church's liberal wing decided to vote for the thing. How could they not see that it was a coup for homophobia?

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 7:02pm GMT

Thank you Peter.

Posted by: Stuart, Devon on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 8:25pm GMT

I would dearly love to see Jeffrey John be appointed as a bishop (and allowed to take up the appointment), not because he's gay but because he'd be a very good bishop. In the meantime I think we should all leave him alone to carry out his ministry in St Albans.

Posted by: Hannah on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 8:37pm GMT

I am told that Jeffrey John is very highly regarded as well as very well liked by the people he ministers to as the Dean of St Albans.

I am sure he would think, as I do, that this is the reputation that really matters.

Posted by: badman on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:04pm GMT

It's worthwhile re-reading the relevant section of Stephen Bates' 'A. Church at War' to be reminded of all the gory details of that synod, the impotence of the Bishops and the contemporary political situation leading up to the notorious section 28.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:05pm GMT

Some of what's going on with the Church of England reminds me of the USA armed forces "before" Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Armed forces service members accused of homosexual behavior by open or anonymous informants used to deploy what was ironically called the "Queen for a Day (named after a 1950s-era TV game show of the same title)" defense, in which the service member would admit that, yes, he or she engaged in a homosexual activity, but it was temporary, s/he was caught up in the moment of some strange compulsion, that s/he was straighter than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and, honest, it won't happen again.
It was a lousy way to run the armed forces.
It's an even more lousy way to run a church founded on love, forgiveness, and the realization that we all are human and have our own crosses to bear.
I'd say Jeffrey John is a saint just for having to put up with all this nonsense. I don't know the marital status of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, it's none of my business. If he is married, I don't know what the current status and level of the physical intimacies that he and his wife share, and I’ll bet he wasn't asked about it during his job interview. It's immaterial to the job, unless it scares the horses (Richard Ashby, I like that phrase as well), or comes to the attention of the authorities for disturbing the peace of his neighbors.
Would that gay and lesbian clergy (yes, they exist) would be treated the same.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:24pm GMT

As Hannah says yes, except that again the conclusion of why he was not appointed rests only on his sexuality, still that is based on no evidence. The 1 vote detail from the original story seeks to imply that his sexuality made the difference, yet I know of at least three recent incumbent appointments not made on the basis of 1 vote, I'm sure that Jeffrey John is more than just his sexuality as is everyone else.

Posted by: Paul on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 9:29pm GMT

Richard Ashby: Sure is. The 1987 blitzkrieg was a lightening victory for homophobia, any discussion lost before it could begin.

Even given the climate, it's hard to fathom what on earth the liberals on Synod were thinking. Realpolitik be damned, in the late '80s, resistance to homophobia was active. Some things you just don't vote for.

Bates doesn't say, but I hope that there was, at the least, extensive behind-the-scenes consultation with LGB clergy and laypeople on the part of their Synod reps. Even if there was, history has shown '87 to be the wrong call.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 10:34pm GMT

From the way I read the Times article, there seemed to be a nuanced hint that it was the one 'who had the casting vote', i.e. the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who prevented Jeffrey John's appointment.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 10 December 2013 at 10:45pm GMT

One feels for Dr. John. It will be difficult to be England's Gene Robinson, if he does.

It cannot be easy having been so close twice (thrice?) now, and not getting the post, but receiving the publicity nonetheless.

Fortunately the CNC looks as though it is moving faster than, for example, Synod.

Justin Cantuar, it's time to make it look like a parade.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 6:04am GMT

Looks like the rainbow coloured stained glass ceiling preventing the appointment of an openly Gay bishop is about to be shattered - one more push and the Dean of St. Albans gets his long over due pointy hat.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 8:00am GMT

Is it any coincidence that the CNC seems to leak selectively, when its to do with a gay candidate for Diocesan Bishop!

Posted by: Tim S on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 8:21am GMT

Tim S, you're right, of course. Someone is trying to start a media firestorm at the prospect of a gay bishop. (Erm, I mean an openly gay bishop.)

This time, however, it seems likely that the leak will, over the long term, ease the paths of gay people to bishoprics.

This leak has taken place so often now that when a gay person is finally made a bishop, people will not be able to claim surprise.

The leaker may also have an eye to stirring things up in the Communion. But in the UK, the number of people who feel sympathy for Canterbury's position as primate of England and leader of the Communion is dwindling.

Once again the CofE is about to act as though it truly is the Church of *England*.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 9:13am GMT

'Course, if England were to follow the ECUSA and Scotland in electing its bishops, we wouldn't be in this mess ...

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 12:24pm GMT

"Is it any coincidence that the CNC seems to leak selectively, when its to do with a gay candidate for Diocesan Bishop!" - Tim S -

Yes, Tim. And my question would be: "Which side of the current argument - For or against Jeffrey John's preferment - stands to gain from the leaks?"

I guess it might be the anti-brigade.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 at 10:35pm GMT

"The real question is surely, if they are gay and unable to be open about it, then why? If it furthers the asking of that question, then The Times should be praised for 'good editing'."

Posted by: Ruth Gledhill on Tuesday

I agree with Ruth's careful premise here, for not
distinguishing, in press articles, between what might be considered an 'openly-gay' person, and a 'gay' person.

As most of us know by now, for a person to be known as 'openly gay' this allows the Church of England to apply negative discrimination against them - e.g. Dean Jeffrey John.

However, if a person is 'gay' but not open about that fact; the Church has the privilege of not discriminating against them for preferment. I suspect that this has worked for the Church splendidly in the past. The only trouble is that now, the situation can be seen for what it is - a climate of structured hypocrisy! This is something that people outside of the church just cannot understand; and rightly so.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 9:57am GMT

"'Course, if England were to follow the ECUSA and Scotland in electing its bishops, we wouldn't be in this mess ..." James Byron

Be careful what you wish for - just look at some of the horrific results of General Synod elections!

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 3:55pm GMT

Jeffrey for Guildford please!

Posted by: Fr Paul on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 5:45pm GMT

Laurence Cunnington: Not to mention South Carolina!

If the election of bad candidates were an argument against democracy, we wouldn't have it. It isn't, any more than the appointment of incompetents is an argument against appointment, since no system approaches perfection.

The benefit of electing bishops is that as many people as possible are consulted and empowered, and the diocese as a whole takes ownership of the decision, instead of back-room dealing, imposition and disconnect between people and their leaders.

Posted by: James Byron on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 6:35pm GMT

What a good idea Fr. Paul. The diocese of Guildford has shewn that it is not afraid to be novel with the appointment of a red haired female American Dean. I'm sure that the Stock Brokers of Surrey would take a celebrity bishop, like Jeffrey John, to their hearts, just as the good folk of County Durham warmly embraced Bishop David Jenkins.

Posted by: Father David on Thursday, 12 December 2013 at 11:09pm GMT

Changing tack slightly, given the significant number of episcopal vacancies currently, and the large number of senior women clergy who surely have the ability to fill them, is it conceivable that a Diocese could choose a woman candidate in the coming months and say "we will wait for her to be consecrated Bishop" or is that something the powers that be in the C of E would not allow? Just a question.

Posted by: Simon W on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 2:03am GMT

Simon W - "NO"! - Just an answer.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 8:27am GMT

But it is a good question.

At what point exactly does it become possible for the CNC to consider women as candidates for diocesan bishoprics. Presumably not until the legislation has received royal assent?

One can easily imagine though that some diocesan bishops who have a vacancy for a suffragan bishopric will move more slowly than they might otherwise have done, for this very reason.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 9:34am GMT

@Simon - It is a very good question.

Working backwards:

Consecration obviously can't happen until the law has changed. Neither can Confirmation of Election, nor (the entirely ceremonial) election by the Cathedral Chapter.

I don't think Her Majesty would approve a nomination of somebody to something which would require a change in the law before it could take place.

BUT - I don't necessarily see that the CNC could not vote and come to a decision on somebody, and then just delay sending the nomination for approval. It would, however, likely place an unbearable strain on the confidentiality of the process. Given CNC dates are now public, if a nomination simply drops off the radar for 6-12 months, it would be noticed.

I've had a quick skim on the legislation, and I certainly don't think the PM could

Posted by: tommiaquinas on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 11:46am GMT

A hugely troubling aspect of this kind of story is that - on the assumption the journalist in question really has a source who is in a position to know - someone who has agreed to participate in a process having given a solemn undertaking to keep the details of that process confidential is breaching their word. Whatever the merits or otherwise of any particular candidate or viewpoint, that is straightforwardly shameful behaviour - both for disregarding one's own promise and for the hurt such leaks could cause to candidates (whether successful or not) and the diocese.

Posted by: Philip Hobday on Friday, 13 December 2013 at 8:04pm GMT

@tommiaquinas: I would dispute your claim that neither election nor confirmation could occur before canon law changed. Surely canon law only dictates whom it is legal to consecrate?

Posted by: Dan BD on Friday, 11 April 2014 at 4:49pm BST
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