Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, has good reason to be unhappy with his treatment by the Church of England. Not once, but twice, he has been nominated as a bishop - and then passed over, in spite of widespread agreement that he is superbly well qualified, and the best man for the job. On both occasions, the sole reason was that he is gay, and partnered. On both occasions, the handling of the affair was grossly embarrassing and offensive.
Anglican rules on gay or lesbian clergy are a mess, confused and contradictory. Technically, all are welcome to the priesthood - but only if they are married, or celibate. The celibacy requirement though, is widely perceived to be a fig-leaf. Nobody believes it is widely observed for ordinary priests - but is seen to be a major barrier to promotion. Adding to the complexity, two recent legal opinions have reached contradictory conclusions on the validity of the rules. Now, it seems that Dr John is about to test the rules, in court.
The Church of England's most senior openly gay cleric is understood to be considering suing his employers for discrimination unless he is made a bishop.
Dr Jeffrey John, the dean of St Albans, was forced to stand down by the archbishop of Canterbury after being appointed suffragan bishop of Reading in 2003 following objections from conservative evangelicals.
Two years ago, John – a celibate priest who is in a longstanding civil partnership with another cleric – was prevented from becoming the bishop of Southwark after the archbishops of Canterbury and York stepped in.
Reports on Sunday suggested John had become so exasperated at his treatment that he had hired Alison Downie, an employment and discrimination law specialist and partner at the law firm Goodman Derrick, to fight his case under equality law. Four years ago, Downie successfully represented a gay youth worker who was found to have been discriminated against by the bishop of Hereford because of his sexuality.
It is thought John's case could hinge on a damning memorandum written by a former dean of Southwark Cathedral, which lays bare the divisions over sexuality at the very top of the church.
In the leaked memo, the late Very Rev Colin Slee described how both the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and the archbishop of York, John Sentamu "behaved very badly" at a meeting to choose the bishop of Southwark in 2010, and "were intent on wrecking both Jeffrey John and [another candidate] Nick Holtam equally".
via The Guardian.
- The gay churchman and an unholy row (independent.co.uk)
- Gay priest 'considers suing Church of England for discrimination' (guardian.co.uk)