Comments: Church in Wales issues further statement about Llandaff

The bishops: "Everyone, just move along. There's nothing happening here. Just go about your business.We'll take care of everything. Just leave it to us, who know how to handle this." The bishops are unresponsive to Dr John. They are unresponsive to Unity in Diversity. They are unresponsive to the Welsh MP's. They desire no dialogue with anyone, other than themselves.To whom, then, are they responsive in any real way? To whom are they accountable? Do they not realize that the bullied gay and transgender kids can see right through them? What to say of we adults, who were once bullied gay and transgender kids, and who can see right through them. Clearly, the bishops have no clue how to handle the mess they have made.They should begin these dialogues as soon as possible. Transparency is the only medicine that has a chance to heal these wounds that the bishops, themselves, have inflicted on the Body of Christ.

Posted by Karen MacQueen at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 7:16pm GMT

They are on the back foot. The reference to 'no reason to halt it' gives it away. They have therefore discussed halting it and seem to be the only people in the land who think the process should not be halted.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 7:27pm GMT

If the Church in Wales House of Bishops still protests that there is no hint of homophobia in the process of choosing the next Bishop of Llandaff, then what are its reasons for rejecting the popular vote for Dean Jeffrey John in that diocese? One can only hope that, in mitigation, the H.o.B. will now re-consider his candidature.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 8:03pm GMT

In all the many comments on related threads here and elsewhere, commentators seem to be missing, or glossing over, a particular aspect of injustice towards Jeffrey John. He is paying a terrible price for being the visible face of a campaign for change.

Ever since the debacle around his nomination as Bishop of Reading, he has earned significant notoriety, partly through his willingness to make strong public statements in favour of better and more just treatment by the church of LGBTi people, including himself. His recent letter is just the most recent and most "extreme" example.

His letter to the Welsh bishops describes his situation as "exactly similar to that of the Bishop of Grantham". Their situatons are dissimilar to the extent that Nicholas Chamberlain was not well-known as a campaigner on these issues. Had someone of his (lack of) profile come equally close to election at Llandaff, I doubt the Bishops would have been exhausted at the prospect of appointing him.

There is a parallel with the ordination of women. Those women who campaigned hardest and longest earned grievously unfair opposition - "strident" being one of the more polite epithets being used to describe them. By and large, these priests are not the ones who have been made bishops; they have been passed over in favour of lower-profile colleagues. If anyone feels that this generalisation is inaccurate, I would be happy to be corrected. And I offer no criticism of those female bishops, or of +Nicholas for that matter, beyond suggesting that they have benefitted from the lonely and thankless campaigning of others.

Is the price Dean Jeffrey has paid for his convictions and his willingness to express them a fair one? NO, it manifestly is not. He should be commended for his consistent courage and integrity. I wonder though if he has recognised this situation, and thrown caution to the wind, sensing that whatever happens, he will not be made Bishop of Llandaff.

Posted by Edward Prebble at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 8:35pm GMT

"Shut up and do what you're told", say the Bishops, who are convinced that there is no homophobia in what they have done. Well, of course they are, it's like one of those irregular verbs:-

I follow Biblical principles
You are homophobic
He has carried out an act covered by section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

Something about beams and motes comes to mind as well.

Posted by Chead at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 10:45pm GMT

"Do they not realize that the bullied gay and transgender kids can see right through them?"

It's something of a consolation that fewer than 1% of the Welsh population goes anywhere near the Church in Wales. At least its influence is virtually non-existent.

Posted by Laurence Cunnington at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 10:46pm GMT

So, the bishops argue: 'because we state formally that we do not believe in discrimination, therefore discrimination in practice cannot occur'. Is this really how they think institutional discrimination works? Don't they have training on this sort of thing? The rest of us certainly do.

I note that in their previous statement the bishops indicated that were they to consider Jeffrey John again at this stage, it would 'call into question the integrity of the electoral college process'. I fear that ship has sailed...

Posted by Charles Clapham at Wednesday, 22 March 2017 at 11:15pm GMT

"[W]e strongly deny allegations of homophobia in the process."

This is disingenuous at best, as a few simple questions will show.

Did "the process" include homophobic remarks?

Did "the process" include homophobic votes--people voting as they did because the Dean of St. Albans is openly gay?

Did "the process" involve "publicity" considerations that were present only because the Dean of St. Albans is openly gay?

Did "the process" involved Communion considerations that were present only because the Dean of St. Albans is openly gay?

To say that homosexuality is no bar in Wales, and at the same time to say (as one bishop apparently did) that the Dean of St. Albans should not be a bishop because of the effect on the Anglican Communion, is to allow rank homophobia to infect the process by another name.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 12:24am GMT

"Steady as she goes!" Alas, the most recent statement by the Welsh bishops is not a very convincing attempt to pour oil on troubled waters. Remember that to act in haste is to repent at leisure, this surely applies to making a speedy appointment to the vacant see of Llandaff following such a storm. A pause for reflection and prayer must be the most sensible option.
What concerns me most about the recent disputes in the Church is the consequent emergence of what can only be called persecution. Persecution takes many forms in its most extreme form we would have to imagine what it must be like to be a follower of Christ in Pakistan or a Coptic Christian in Egypt. However, it seems to me that, to a lesser extent, Philip North has been persecuted as indeed has Jeffrey John but likewise the Dean of Christ Church and the Welsh bishops are being persecuted. Even the Bishop of Rome is currently suffering from a level of persecution from those Cardinals who cling onto a traditional form of Roman Catholicism.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 7:22am GMT

It is evident that the closed-door electoral college model used by the Church in Wales must be changed -- it cannot function in the modern age.

Perhaps people nowadays simply have less respect for the idea of an oath of secrecy in the first place. A bigger factor, I suspect, is that what rumors did leak out in the past were less likely to develop momentum and buzz than in today's internet era.

The effect of these rumors is deeply unfortunate. First, they are likely to be cruel and unfair to the nominees. Secondly, they place the other members of the electoral college in a terribly awkward position. ("If the rumors are inaccurate, how far can we go to rebut them without breaking our own oaths?") Finally, it is unhealthy for the rest of us to become so deeply invested in a matter we know relatively little about, having only heard disconnected snippets second- or third-hand.

It's a pity, because the Church in Wales's electoral college seems like a good balanced system in theory; and perhaps it once worked well. Public elections might be thought to bring with them a risk of unseemly campaigning and ambition; but that seems to be what people want anyway and it would be better to be honest about it.

The present bench of bishops aren't to blame for the old system over which they currently preside, since they didn't design it themselves — but perhaps they can be the ones to propose a new one at the next meeting of the Governing Body.

Posted by RD at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 7:49am GMT

If ever there was a case of heads stuck in the sand...

The bishops do not get it that they are no longer trusted. Treating us like mushrooms is just going to compound the malaise created over the past decade. Whoever is the next Bishop of Llandaff may receive episcopal support; but from everyone else? This has been a shocking betrayal of trust and a continuation of the years of manipulation and lack of accountability modelled by the former Primate. We had hoped for a clear change of direction, only to discover that we are heading even further along a dead end of questionable morality.

Parishioners of the Church in Wales should make their feelings known - and soon.

Posted by Nigel Evans at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 8:05am GMT

@RD may be interested to know that a root and branch review of the Church in Wales, conducted by Lord Harries of Pentregarth, the former Bishop of Oxford, made precisely the same recommendation about the Welsh Electoral College system. This was after the widespread ire at the abuse of confidentiality in the 2008 Bangor electoral college. Not surprisingly, Barry Morgan, the recently retired Archbishop, failed to implement the recommendation. If he had, it would have stymied his manipulation of the appointment of bishops in Wales.

Posted by Gareth P at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 9:58am GMT

It's also disingenuous at best to suggest that the objections raised about the bishops' process and decision-making has been the result of "the disappointment felt by all the candidates considered by the Electoral College who did not secure enough support to be elected".

It's a really weaselly way of suggesting Jeffrey John is just whining because he can't deal with being a loser who lost because not enough people supported him.

Posted by SMB at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 10:31am GMT

Here in Ireland, we have a venerable tradition of Bishops being appointed by the House of Bishops after candidates failed to secure the necessary majority in the electoral college. This is, it seems, the only way we could have a woman in Pat Storey, the current Bishop of Meath & Kildare.

Unlike Wales, this process has, so far as I can remember, never resulted in the House of Bishops being smeared by allegations of dishonesty and injustice. I don't know whether this says something significant about the calibre of bishops in Ireland compared to their Welsh counterparts. Others will know better than me. Whatever the roots of the disquiet in Wales, it does at least suggest that there needs to be root and branch reform of the system - and, perhaps, the wisdom and humility to declare the outcome of the Llandaff electoral college invalid for the reasons already highlighted.

Might the Welsh province not profitably learn from the (very open) system in operation in Scotland? Or might that risk the appointment of the best, rather than the preferred, candidate?

Posted by Michael Mulhern at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 11:21am GMT

I am so relieved that the Guardian has it out in the open, and the spotlight can now shine on the hypocrisy of the former Archbishop. I find the Church in Wales' statement about him 'reminding' electors of the Anglican Communion 'moratorium' thoroughly disingenuous. Those of us present knew exactly what we were being told - and it wasn't like the Church in Wales' the statement to the Guardian tells it.

I honestly did not think this could get any worse (and I am in a position to know that there is a lot more dirt that has been cloaked under the confidentiality clause). The incompetence and moral precariousness of the bishops is staggering.

There can only be one outcome of virtue now. The bishops must have the wisdom and humility to acknowledge the shambles into which they have plunged the Church in Wales, stand back from the process, allow a reasonable time of prayerful reflection on how things have gone so badly wrong, invite Bishop David Wilbourne to be acting Bishop of Llandaff for six months or so, and declare the result of the Electoral College null and void. Later, a new Electoral College needs to be called, with much greater clarity (and accountability). As things stand, no appointment will be acceptable and that deeply divided Diocese will continue to decline and lurch from one crisis to the next.

Posted by David Richards at Thursday, 23 March 2017 at 3:58pm GMT

Also this from Cranmer ... http://archbishopcranmer.com/church-wales-hounded-appoint-jeffrey-john-bishop-llandaff/

Posted by Andy at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 12:40am GMT

Good to see the Deans and Chapters of three English cathedrals (St. Albans, Ely and Southwark) coming out in support of Jeffrey John. Is there a Dean and Chapter from a Welsh cathedral willing to do the same and defy the Cymbrogi Episcopal Five?

Posted by Father David at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 7:04am GMT

The British left would rather be virtuous in futile opposition than "compromise" with the electorate, hence Corbyn.

Anglican bishops would rather be homophobic to empty churches than "compromise" with the general public, hence all this (Llandaff, Sheffield).

Clearly, to bishops in the CofE and the CofW, keeping a few homophobic and misogynistic friends onboard and avoiding the perception of "compromise" is the main issue, and empty churches are something to be worried about later, if at all.

Posted by Interested Observer at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 7:14am GMT

Very interesting to see David Richards characterise Llandaff as a divided Diocese. It seems to me that one of the causal features of this whole sorry affair has been the unity of its Electors

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 7:20am GMT

Reading over all the comments on the various articles about the Llandaff election, I really am distressed by all the partisanship on display here at TA. How would we feel if the boot were on the other foot — if we heard that somebody like Philip North, say, had fallen just short of the required majority? Sorry for him personally, of course; but would we be outraged?

Cheating, breaking the rules, lying — these are not acceptable and we would be right to be outraged if these had occurred. But the questions of 'should representatives of other dioceses acquiesce in response to overwhelming support from the vacant diocese?' and 'should the bench of bishops continue where the electoral college left off, or would it be better to look for new candidates lest they reopen fresh wounds or seem to be overruling the electoral college's work?' — surely these are questions on which reasonable minds might differ, when considered in the abstract (without reference to the particular personalities and issues involved here). And if so, then these questions are not grounds for all the vitriol which is being directed at the bishops on this blog.

We can think that they are making a mistake by passing over Jeffrey John without thinking that they are dishonest for doing so.

(And I continue to be baffled by the notion that anybody has 'abused confidentiality' besides the people who have done the leaking. I always supposed that the leaks about Jeffrey John's Southwark candidature were made by his opponents, in order to HURT him — but perhaps some people have funny ways of trying to help their friends.)

Posted by RD at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 8:01am GMT

This is an internal provincial matter..the Church in Wales was dis-established in 1920.

Posted by robert ian williams at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 8:33am GMT

It is good to see three Cathedrals come out in support of Dr John and do so publicly. They have shamed the bishops in both Wales and England who refuse to take a public stand against homophobia and discrimination.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 2:12pm GMT

Whatever his virtues, Jeffrey John is seemingly not destined to be a bishop - at 64 he is already on the way to retirement. There are members of the CinW who, rightly or wrongly, are not happy with the idea of an openly gay bishop just as some did not want a woman at St David's. The process for appointing a new bishop for Llandaff has failed to agree on a candidate and it is reasonable now for the bishops to appoint. John is an able and scholarly man, but his own lobbying for the post does not help his cause, My sympathies are, however, with anyone who has the courage to accept appointment to Llandaff. I can't help but feel that this debacle is Barry Morgan's parting gift to the CinW, which is in a debilitated state.

Posted by Ken at Friday, 24 March 2017 at 5:25pm GMT

Ken: 'rightly or wrongly'? As Jeffrey John is living within the guidelines of the Church in Wales, let alone those of the Church of England which are stricter (i.e. in a celibate relationship within a civil partnership) there is no 'right or wrong' about it. It is clearly wrong to refuse a candidate solely on the grounds of his sexual orientation. There is no possible justification; if there were other reasons (which there may have been) for excluding Dr John they should have been made clear.

Posted by David Emmott at Saturday, 25 March 2017 at 9:49pm GMT

I would have thought that Dr John's age is a virtue in this instance given the limits that it imposes on his time in office and the difficulties caused by +Morgan's lengthy tenure

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 6:56am GMT

Just listened to Bishop of Swansea and Brecon on Radio 4; a master class in sounding shifty. Support for Dr John's allegation of confidentiality as a mask for injustice and deception

Posted by Stanley Shaw at Sunday, 26 March 2017 at 7:35am GMT

And now we learn that five of the electors -- five! -- have filed a formal complaint, which the Church in Wales is treating as a legal matter.

Two immediate thoughts:

1. It will be very difficult to contradict the factual accounts of five witnesses.

2. This formal complaint should alert the CinW Electoral College, and also the CofE CNC, to the need to abide by their own stated policies when selecting bishops--and to the necessity of casting aside private prejudices and Communion bigotry.

Posted by Jeremy at Tuesday, 28 March 2017 at 3:37pm BST
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