Comments: Gay clergyman passed over seven times for promotion to bishop

"We would resist strongly any suggestion that selections for senior appointments are influenced by the sexuality of candidates.”

Would the Church of England please stop lying?

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 6 April 2017 at 11:47pm BST

'A spokesperson for the C of E said: “We do not comment on Crown Nominations Commission business. We would resist strongly any suggestion that selections for senior appointments are influenced by the sexuality of candidates."'

So... um... why isn't Jeffrey John the Bishop of Reading then?

That had nothing to do with sexuality?

And what about the Primate's sanctions imposed last year on the Episcopal Church? That had nothing to do with sexuality either? (Okay, it was sexuality impacting on marriage, but the Episcopal Church has been previously hounded for gay and lesbian bishops.)

And the Bishops's report this winter - repudiated by their own priests - which kicks affirmation of gay partnerships into the long grass, potentially for years to come?

None of this has anything to do with sexuality?

Of course sexuality is at the heart of opposition to Jeffrey John as a bishop. And the fact that he champions a theology that does not condemn gay and lesbian sex. Pete Broadbent said as much here on a previous occasion: that's why he said he signed a petition against Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading.

The guy isn't being blocked because he's Welsh.

He's not being blocked because he's even having sex (he's not).

He's being blocked because he's out, and open, and vocal in his theological challenge to the official Church position on sexuality. Even though I've been talking to plenty of current bishops who challenge that position too (and also those who definitely don't).

Jeffrey's voice and challenge is a problem. And THAT has everything to do with sexuality.

The whole thing de-rails again and again because of sexuality.

Even the bishops themselves are deeply divided on sexuality. I know. I've listened to 36 of them. For some gay sexuality is completely inadmissible, and may lead to the splitting of the Church.

In these contexts, sexuality is politically highly-charged. For the 'spokesman' to suggest everything's fine is just another charade. The Church is divided down the middle (including the bishops) and sexuality obviously comes into Jeffrey John's possible future. Let's be honest about that.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 12:32am BST

If ever there was a case for rationalisation then surely it is the diocese of Sodor and Man with only 28 parishes, 43 churches and a population of just over 88,000. I'm surprised that the Isle of Wight with a larger population of 140,500 hasn't declared UDI from Portsmouth. The Victorians, who were dead keen on creating new dioceses wanted to integrate the Isle of Man within the dioceses of first Carlisle and then Liverpool but this sensible proposal did not come to pass. Isn't it about time that this eminently sensible plan was reconsidered? Failing that, now that we have the Porvoo Agreement couldn't Sodor and Man return once more to Norway and the Vikings and be part of the diocese of Trondheim?

Posted by Father David at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 5:50am BST

I'm afraid, Father David, that you have missed the most obvious solution: Sodor is the Hebrides (sorry Rev Awdry), and as such the title ought to be merged back under the jurisdiction of the current holder of the bishopric of the Isles - Kevin Pearson of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The only snag is that Man probably has more Anglicans than all of Sodor put together. At least adapting the Gaelic liturgy into Manx Gaelic shouldn't be too strenuous.

Posted by Jo at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 6:48am BST

I'm with Jeremy and others here who accuse the Church of England hierarchy of blatant dishonesty when they state that the lack of preferment of Jeffrey John has "nothing to do with his sexuality"

So blatant a mis-statement should not be allowed to pass the credibility censor. No wonder the Church of England is losing integrity among its LGBTI adherents. Something has to change in the culture of endemic homophobia for the Church of England to be taken seriously on this important issue.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 7:51am BST

Father David: have you ever been to the island? It is the place for which the term 'fiercely independent' was coined. We had many lovely family holidays there. They have their own money and postage stamps - hence this exchange in Port St Mary Post Office:
Mrs Read: I want to send these postcards to the mainland
Postmaster: This is the mainland
Mrs R: These are going to Manchester
Postmaster: That's overseas.

Posted by Charles Read at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 12:16pm BST

Jeffrey John would make an excellent Dean of Liverpool. And like the previous Dean but two he could function as a bishop at the same time.

Posted by David Emmott at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 1:01pm BST

The statement "resists" but does not "deny". In press speak the two are different. Resist typically means we do not think there is any evidence (in public) which supports the accusation; deny means we have evidence to refute it.

What more could the C of E spokesman have said? I am sure he didn't have the authority to admit discrimination. So I don't think that the C of E response is a story. What is a story is that until the C of E has a positive message of equality we are always going to be looking terrible whenever a newspaper runs a piece like this. And the House of Bishops just doesn't get it.

Posted by Kate at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 3:43pm BST

Kate, if we want to focus on the precise wording, we could go further and say that "would resist" is even softer than "resist."

But no matter how carefully phrased the statement, the point is that the CofE is trying to convince the public that "selections for senior appointments are [not] influenced by the sexuality of candidates." When everyone knows that is simply not true.

The statement is not only false; it's also insulting. How stupid does the CofE think the public are?

Communion and Lambeth 2020 considerations have caused the CofE to try to kick sexuality into the long grass and hope that no one notices.

This strategy is falling apart already, and it's only 2017.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 5:01pm BST

Looks like the elections in the summer of new central members of the Crown Nominations Commission for the period 2017-2022 might be interesting.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 9:49pm BST

Anthony Archer - I quite agree.

My own belief is that the CNC is responding too readily to various pressures from above.

That being so, the chief qualification for the new members will be their independence from the Archbishops.

Do the new central members have backbones? Will they stand up to the pressure?

Rather than allow themselves to be managed into doing what Lambeth and Bishopsthorpe want, will the new central members exercise their own voices and votes?

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 10:55pm BST

Ironically, elevating John to the purple would've been the best way to silence him: even English bishops who define themselves as liberal toe the party line in the name of unity; and John, as he made clear when he condemned John Shelby Spong, ain't no liberal. He's a devout Anglo-Catholic who happens to be gay, and if he'd been allowed to take his place on the bishops' bench, I'd be amazed if his catholicity hadn't won out.

Posted by James Byron at Friday, 7 April 2017 at 11:59pm BST

As someone with an interest in how social change is mediated by technology, it is fascinating to see the CofE leadership floundering in the face of connected opposition. In Justin Welby's or John Sentamu's world, in which they are oddly proud of only having an old Nokia phone which they keep turned off except in emergencies, and who ge their staff to look at Twitbookgram once a week and prepare a handwritten memo outlining what the young people are doing, they can continue to hold as an axiom that if they say "nothing to see here, move along" people will believe them. The Archbishops have spoken! That is the end of the matter!

However, in 2017, the Internet has been, outside the precincts of cathedrals, at least, a thing for twenty years, and social networking for a large part of that. In a way unimaginable a generation ago, people speak and meet and network on a national and international basis. Groups of people who share an interest or concern are able to communicate and organise in a way which, in 1983, would have involved classified adverts in the back of magazines and the sending of international reply coupons. It no longer works when the large organisation uses its broadcast power to say "attention, little people! you are all wrong!", relying on their lack of ability to speak to each other. Now, instead of speaking to many atomised individuals, churches are talking to groups in communication amongst themselves, and can't rely on "no-one feels like you do, you are a weird minority of one". That's a massive change in society, and one which traditional institutions of power are only slowly (or in the case of the c of e, not at all) understanding.

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 9:39am BST

I think that's unfair. Some of Spong's comments were excitable and uncharitable - I've come to regard him as David Jenkins without the good bits (which were many).

The Jeffrey John case had a big impact on me. I decided I could not regularly worship in the church I was brought up in. I thought this would be temporary. Twelve years later it's still going on and I feel the same way. It shreds faith, day by day, but I can't be part of such an injustice. Is there any chance this will be righted? Is it time (with my background I never thought I'd say this) to ask the politicians for help? If Corbyn and Farron could be brought to say that if they were PM they would ask for a change, perhaps? The CofE is now so far adrift from the nation of which it is the national church (ahem) that I wonder if there's a way there.

Posted by South church in the rabbit warren at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 9:55am BST

John objected to the very concept of theological liberalism, which, given his attitude to the church's teaching on sexuality, was an awfully selective kinda traditionalism. (To be fair, which kind isn't?)

As for Spong, yes, he's passionate, or excitable if you prefer. He's virtually alone among Anglican bishops in popularizing the liberalism taken as given at seminary, then treated as a dirty secret. As a man with the courage of his convictions, I've a lota time for him.

John may've proved the first exception to English episcopal omertà in recent years: it is, unfortunately, likely to remain guesswork. Theological disagreements aside, I'd be delighted if John were finally raised to the purple. He clearly wants it a great deal, and after the way the church has treated him, it's the least it can do.

Posted by James Byron at Sunday, 9 April 2017 at 8:28pm BST
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