Sunday, 19 March 2017

Llandaff: letter from Dean of St Albans

Updated again Monday afternoon

A letter has been made public today (Sunday) by the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John. It has already appeared in numerous places on social media, and has been reported on by Christian Today:

Harry Farley Gay cleric Jeffrey John speaks out: My homosexuality was the only reason I was blocked as Bishop of Llandaff

And also on the BBC Callum May ‘Homophobia’ row over Bishop of Llandaff selection

Harriet Sherwood at the Guardian has Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Readers may care to refer to this earlier article: Church in Wales publishes pastoral letter, authorises prayers for same sex couples.


Readers may also care to refer to the Llandaff diocesan profile, available here. And the provincial perspective, over here.

The Church Times has published a very detailed report by Madeleine Davies Jeffrey John replies to exclusion from Llandaff: ‘This is how discrimination works’. This includes a statement from the Church in Wales which says:

“The Bishops strongly deny allegations of homophobia.”

Wales Online has The furious letter a gay cleric sent to Welsh bishops after they refused him a top post.

The Guardian has a second article: Church in Wales urged to rethink rejection of gay candidate for bishop

The BBC has Bishop of Llandaff sexuality row ‘wholly wrong’.

And Harry Farley at Christian Today has a further article: Jeffrey John: Pressure mounts on Church in Wales after allegations of homophobia.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 5:05pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church in Wales

Good for Dr. John !

'Let right be done.'

Posted by: Laurie Roberts on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 6:17pm GMT

It is to be hoped that the Llandaff Electors make known their objections to this charade. It must be particularly galling to them to find that the consultation in which they were asked to take part and has proved not only a sham but a smokescreen to enable the bench of bushops to avoid appointing Dr John and to hide their pusillanimity in avoiding the preferred candidate of the diocese who was a mere 2 votes short of the 2/3 majority required.
It would also be of interest to know how many letters of support for Dr John were received but I fear they may even now have fallen victim to the shredder

Posted by: Stanley Shaw on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 7:26pm GMT

I strongly support Dr John in what he has done. He is quite right to say that confidentiality is used as a cloak for homophobic and other abuse. He is right to challenge the Church in Wales whose spokesperson's denials of homophobia are totally unconvincing. Dr John has been consistently poorly treated by the Cof E and the CinW and it needs to stop. He is brave and right to go public.

Posted by: Daniel Lamont on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 7:40pm GMT

Harry Farley of Christian Today has published the letter to which the Dean of St Albans is responding, via Twitter.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 March 2017 at 11:32pm GMT

There is a poison at work amongst the bishops of the Church of England and the Church of Wales--the poison of homophobia.

Posted by: Jeremy on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 3:14am GMT

I cannot help but think that the influence of the GAFCON Provinces has too large a place in the affairs of other, more liberated, provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Despite the hierarchy of the Church in Wales protesting its freedom from homophobia; in this particular matter, the inference is only too obvious. After all, Dean Jeffrey John's partnership status is as acceptable, surely, as that of another bishop in the Church of England whose own same-sex partnership has been declared and found acceptable.

What will the world outside of the Church think of this obvious duplicity?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 3:21am GMT

I would have been very happy to see Jeffrey John elected in Llandaff, but I do not understand the outcry in this case. Nobody is entitled to an elected post; the whole notion of an election is that each elector is allowed to choose for him- or herself. And nobody can reasonably be angry with honorable people for maintaining an oath of silence they have taken. (I've been a bit shocked, frankly, by how cavalier people seem to be about the violation of the oath of secrecy in this case, and how willing they've been to accept as true the rumors we've seen reported the past few weeks -- they do appear to be confirmed now, but where were our grains of salt last week?)

The constitution of the Church in Wales mandates an Electoral College with an oath of secrecy, allows a significant voice to the other dioceses, and requires a two-thirds majority. Perhaps this is a bad system, and the church should move to an American model with an open and transparent election by the local diocese only. But for now it is the system in place, and I don't think it's fair to shoot the messenger.

What can Jeffrey John hope to achieve by his letter? He knows the bishops cannot reply to it (due to the oath of secrecy) -- so what can come of it beyond more division?

Posted by: RD on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 4:29am GMT

Oh dear, the Church in Wales seems to be falling apart since the retirement of Archbishop Barry Morgan.
Surely, the prime reason for the existence of bishops is not to be a focus of unity but to be a Guardian and Teacher of the Faith. Having heard Dr. John lecture on a number of occasions I know that he is supremely qualified to fulfil the premier episcopal role of Guardian and Teacher and would have made an impressive Bishop of Reading, Southwark, Bangor or Llandaff.
Goodness knows, the plea for more/some "Scholar Bishops" has been loud and clear over the years in the comments posted on the TA website.

Posted by: Father David on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 6:46am GMT

Nobody has yet sought to draw a parallel between the situation of Dean Jeffrey John and Bishop Philip North yet that may soon happen.

However, I think the difference is clear. Bishop Philip's appointment was opposed by at least a third of his prospective clergy. (Although a few women may have been happy with his appointment in support of "mutual flourishing", I expect a larger number of male clergy would also have been unhappy.)

Dr John, on the other hand, had unanimous support from the representatives of his prospective diocese, but his appointment was blocked by representatives of the bishops in Wales and the wider church authorities there.

Posted by: Rev. Iain Baxter on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 7:35am GMT

Seems to me that bishops simply don't grasp the power of social media to disseminate and to reveal. Neither do they seem to grasp that none of us is willing to kiss their rings any more. Social media as exposers of cant and hypocrisy are surely to be welcomed. Christlike. As a cradle Wesleyan I have never quite seen the point of bishops. I

Posted by: Fr William on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 7:48am GMT

Another example of ungenerous love by Bishops to their brother clergy.
Only Bishops frightened of their own skin could behave in such an ungenerous way to someone who has served the church well through his years of ministry. Here the laity of the diocese have made their wishes known, but clearly ignored by the college of Bishops.
Yet another diocese without a Bishop, and the diocese becoming a poison chalice to who ever is brave enough to accept the appointment.
Surely it is time to accept the fact that gay clergy are as much called by God to Episcopal orders, as heterosexual clergy.

Fr John Emlyn

Posted by: Fr John Emlyn Harris-White on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 8:31am GMT

Three interesting quotations:- the first from the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon

‘…significant turbulence and anxiety for the bishops’
And then from Dean John’s response

‘…namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese, and that it might create difficulties for the future Archbishop in relation to the Anglican Communion’.
‘…the bishops were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems they believed my appointment would cause’.

Jeffrey John has been quite right to bring this correspondence to a wider audience. It not only exposes the institutional homophobia of the Bishops and the church in a particularly stark way but it also exposes their laziness and cowardice in dealing with the issue. They clearly hoped that by not appointing Dean John and ignoring the public consultation their problem would go away. The strategy has blown up on their faces and they are quite rightly exposed for the straw men they are. Shame on them.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 10:46am GMT

So it is too exhausting to the bishops to deal with the complications of LGBTIQ people and same sex relationships. How do they think it is for those of us who live it daily? Bishops recognise the weariness but don't have the Christian compassion to lighten our burden by extending a proper welcome.

It is the good Samaritan but, instead of being cast in the role of hero, the Church in Wales has chosen to take on the role of those who passed by and offered no aid. In any other organisation resignations would be expected. It is hard to see how any appointment made by those bishops can now have any credibility.

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 3:09pm GMT

Several years ago, I was an ordination where one of the ordinands was a married gay man. An objection was raised, and after the bishop conferred with the objectors, he announced that there was no canonical impediment and that the ordination would proceed. The cathedral erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation, which lasted for several minutes.

What would happen if, at the consecration of whoever the bishops choose for Llandaff, the people of the diocese answered the question "Is it your will that N. be ordained a bishop?" with a resounding "NO!"?

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 3:51pm GMT

This is an appalling abuse of process by a bench of spineless bishops who are running scared. I had thought the Church in Wales was showing some signs of being in the vanguard on this issue, but clearly not. For homophobic remarks to go unreprimanded at interview demonstrates a conspicuous and complete failure to discharge the obligations placed upon the appointment panel. At best, the chairman was ineffectually indifferent to the nastiness; at worst his apparent failure to intervene made him wholly complicit in it. This bears the hallmarks of cowardly bishops. The Dean of St Albans failed to secure 66% of the votes (I understand it was some 58%) so ‘we need not include him on a new shortlist.’ Really? The fact that by definition the other candidates came nowhere close is conveniently ignored. I have no confidence in the request for an honest examination of the process, as confidentiality will be pleaded, especially over pressure brought to bear elsewhere in the Anglican Communion to torpedo this appointment. Can the hand of Lambeth be detected? We need to know. Anecdotal evidence is that Lambeth and Bishopthorpe have been here before with certain vacant diocesan sees in the Church of England, heaving a sigh of relief each time that the appointment won’t need to be explained to the Anglican Communion. How much longer O Lord? When the dam finally bursts a lot of these bishops are going to get very wet, even drown.

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 6:42pm GMT

"...the affairs of other, more liberated, provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion" Fr Ron Smith.

I presume, Ron, that you include the Province you and I belong to, Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, as one of those liberated ones. Yet we also seem to be in something of an impasse in our handling of these issues.

I wonder if a solution to Dean Jeffrey's predicament - and our own - might be in our hands here on the other side of the world. Perhaps you and/or I should talk to mutual friends in the Electoral Synod for the Diocese of Dunedin, and draw his availability to their attention. He would be a magnificent addition to our bench of bishops.

If Jeffrey said he was not interested, they could always try Martyn Percy....

(To clarify any doubt, Fr Ron, the above comments are offered mostly in jest, but perhaps not entirely!)

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 6:47pm GMT

There is a simple solution to this impasse. BBC Wales, this evening, said that the Bench of Bishops would meet with the candidates they had selected for interview. Those invited for interview should refuse to attend - and should certainly refuse to accept nomination to the See. That way justice will be done. If it means that dissembling and hypocritical bishops will have to fall on their swords, so be it. Justice and truth matter more than institutional survival.

Posted by: Jane Brewer on Monday, 20 March 2017 at 10:16pm GMT

Jane Brewer has it right.

There is a point when a process becomes so illegitimate and unfair that nearly everyone should boycott it.

Posted by: Jeremy on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 3:21am GMT

Dear Edward, your remarks, above, about the possibility of Dean Jeffrey John being considered for our upcoming vacancy-in-see at Dunedin (N.Z.) may not be too far-fetched. However, our earth-quake prone territory may be little different from the fragility of the Church in Wales at this time.
He might just be better off at Saint Albans, where there is no lack of Gospel love for their Dean.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 5:54am GMT

In reply to RD. The electors make a declaration of confidentiality in relation to all things LEGAL and HONEST. It is difficult to characterise much of what happened in the Electoral College and subsequently as either of these and thus the declarations cannot be binding. The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon chooses to be bound by it as the only way that protects him from having to acknowledge his wrong doing and have it exposed to wider scrutiny.
As Dr John has so eloquently said, such confidentiality is too often used to mask wrong doing and abuse.
RD asks what Dr John hopes to achieve. Could it be an end to deceit and deception? Could it be justice and respect for the expressed wishes of the Diocesan Electors, who were and are unanimous? Could he be trying to reinvigorate the bishops of the Church in Wales, too tired to do right, by making them think about matching their statements to their actions?

Posted by: Stanley Shaw on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 7:39am GMT

The 'abuse of confidentiality as a cloak for deception and injustice' is not unique to the unfolding Llandaff debacle. It has been a feature of electoral colleges in the Church in Wales for the past decade - and specifically regarding Jeffrey John. Bangor 2008 will remain, for many of us in Wales, a moral and ecclesiastical nadir. In that sense, I am not at all surprised by anything that Jeffrey John has highlighted. It has been hard-wired into the DNA of the electoral college over many years.

Posted by: Gareth P on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 10:04am GMT

I always look forward to reading Anthony Archer's erudite contributions to this blog. However, with regard to my suggestion that the ABC should express an opinion on the Sheffieldgate disaster he saw no need for any intervention in this matter from Lambeth Palace; yet he seems to want a different response on what is happening on the other side of Offa's Dyke as he wrote the following observation on Llandaffgate - "Can the hand of Lambeth be detected? We need to know."
I detect a lack of consistency here. How can it be right for the ABC not to express an opinion on the Sheffield appointment which falls within the Church of England yet, at the same time, seek the views of Justin Welby on the non-appointment of Dean Jeffrey John to the See of Llandaff within the Church in Wales? I think we should be told.

Posted by: Father David on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 11:10am GMT

"I always look forward to reading Anthony Archer's erudite contributions to this blog."

Father David never fails to flatter. The short answer is that Sheffieldgate is an intra-provincial matter, whereas Llandaffgate has the potential to tear the Anglican Communion apart, not that I have any desire to see the CofE or CiW run from Uganda. There will be more to Sheffieldgate in due course, with lessons learned. Whether the Welsh bishops have any clue what to do next is rather less clear. .

Posted by: Anthony Archer on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 6:40pm GMT

An election is an election; voters are entitled to vote for whomever they choose. The fact that we are not happy with the choices that voters have made doesn't alter that fact!

Again, if you want to argue that the Welsh system is a bad one, go ahead and argue that. But given the system which is in place now, I have not heard any evidence that the actions of the electoral college were anything other than 'legal and honest'. According to the reports, Jeffrey John was duly nominated and received a great many votes — just not enough for election.

I can't help feeling that there is a lot of partisanship on display here — our judgements on matters of principle should not be determined by our other personal preferences or allegiances. We would do well to imagine how we would react were the boot on the other foot.

Posted by: RD on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 at 7:59pm GMT

Father David, I think you are missing the point.

I suspect that Anthony Archer was, by raising his question, suggesting that the hand of Lambeth, if detected, would be inappropriate.

Certainly that is my view.

My suspicion is that the bishops of the Church in Wales did the similar bidding of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury. It wasn't right then, and it isn't now.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 3:34am GMT

"Llandaffgate has the potential to tear the Anglican Communion apart".
Precisely so, that is why the silence from Lambeth is so deafening. The ABC's Official Website has had no comment placed upon it since as long ago as the 9th March - since then Sheffieldgate rumbles on and we now have Llandaffgate but comment from Justin Welby comes there none.
Personally, Jeremy, I'm not into conspiracy theories but I'm sure that both of our Archbishops have conspired to prevent Jeffrey John being appointed to an English diocese (Southwark, Exeter, Durham, St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich).
Whether or not Cantuar's influence extends beyond Offa's Dyke must, like the identity of whistle-blowing Welsh bishop, remain an item of pure speculation.

Posted by: Father David on Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 12:57pm GMT

Father David, I have to think that the previous Archbishop of Canterbury was very influential in Wales.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 5:48pm GMT
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