Will Jeffrey John make Purple after all?

Bishop David Anderson thinks there’s a chance:

With regard to "moratoria" on electing/consecrating any new homosexual bishops in the Anglican Communion, the next chance of such an election isn’t in North America. We have become aware through reliable sources that Dr. Barry Morgan is a man of his word – he previously has said, "I (Barry Morgan) would ordain Britain’s first gay Bishop."

Wales is in an election process for Bishop of Bangor and the election has as one of its still-secret nominees none other than Jeffrey John, sometime bishop designee for Reading, who had to withdraw when the appointment created an uproar. Failing to take the prize home with him, he was given an appointment as a Cathedral Dean to console him, but it now appears that some stock options for the future were thrown in as well (Dean Jeffrey John is in a same-sex civil partnership).

The electoral college consists of the clergy of the diocese of Bangor and all of the Bishops of the Province of the Church of Wales. Although being on the slate is no guarantee of an election, it is clearly something that Archbishop Morgan desires, having said that practicing homosexuals should not be barred from becoming bishops, and having called the opponents of such consecrations "exclusive and narrow-minded."

Ooohh blimey. That would put the cat amongst the pigeons.

It’s vitally important that Conservatives, if they oppose this promotion (if it indeed happens), get their response absolutely water-tight. There is a huge danger that incorrect use of language or argument will damage the orthodox position. In particular we need to be aware of what the general public will perceive from the language we use.

Let me give you a good example. Any reference to Jeffrey John being "the gay Dean" or a potential new "gay Bishop" reinforces in the public’s mind that the issue is Dr John’s sexuality. The truth of the matter is that his sexual orientation shouldn’t in any way disbar him from the highest office. It is sexual practice that is the key, not sexual orientation.

Any objection on the case of him being in a Civil Partnership also needs to be clearly thought through. Is a celibate Civil Partnership what the Lambeth Conference proposed moratorium on consecrating those in a same-sex union intended to cover? If so, does that make the Church of England’s stance on the permissibility of celibate Civil Partnerships untenable in the light of the Lambeth moratoria?

Any objection to him being consecrated on the basis of his teaching also needs to be carefully weighed. Is it fair to single out Dr John’s "Permanent, Stable, Faithful" when Rowan Williams’ "The Body’s Grace" might amount to the same stance? What about "heterosexual" bishops who teach the same thing as Dr John on same-sex unions?

One of the main objections to Dr John’s consecration in Reading was the way his candidacy had been foisted upon the Diocese. That will probably not be the situation in Bangor, so a careful response which is well thought out theologically and ecclesiologically needs to be prepared (if it is necessary). It seems to me that the best card to play is a combination of the same-sex union ban and the teaching of Dr John on sexual morality, but such an objection has huge implications for the Church of England (as regards its stance on Civil Partnerships).

Let’s wait and see…

Update – 2nd September

In a response to Adrian the Pluralist I wrote the following, which I think is a better ground for objecting to Dr John’s consecration than any of the above. I’m copying it here as readers from Kendall Harmon’s site may miss it:

Simply put, it is this. Jeffrey John is an unrepentant sinner and such a man cannot be a shepherd of the people. While all of us are sinners, you cannot have a Bishop who has sinned, that sin is public knowledge, and yet who refuses to even acknowledge what he has done is sinful, let alone repent for it.

The sin that Jeffrey John has committed is having sex outside of marriage. Although he is now celibate, he has previously in the past been sexually active with someone he is not married to. It doesn’t matter whether he had sex with a man or a woman, and certainly his sexual orientation has absolutely no bearing on the sin he has committed. It would be the same if a male candidate was put forward to be Bishop who was unmarried, was known to have had a sexual relationship with a woman for over five years, and yet refused to accept that it was sinful.

Let me quickly say that revisionists might object to this as other men have been made bishop where it is alleged that they have had previous sex outside of marriage. However, in the case of the person I am thinking of (of whom attempts were made to out him earlier this year), there was a clear position from him since then that all sex outside of marriage was wrong, including any that he may or may not have engaged in.

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30 Comments on “Will Jeffrey John make Purple after all?

  1. One must remember this is the Church in Wales being discussed not the Church of England. My understanding, and it is very partial, is that the Church in Wales has no clear teaching on non celibate same sex partnerships. Is it this non traditional teaching that Dean John would now be affirming?

    Teaching on relationships from here http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/faith/believe/families.html
    The Church in Wales recognises that people of integrity inside and outside it hold a wide range of views on the subject of homosexual practice.

    Policy on civil partnerships from here http://www.churchinwales.org.uk/faith/believe/bench_civilp.html
    The Bishops of the Church in Wales cannot and would not wish to prevent what the law allows for Church members, both lay and clerical.

  2. You’re absolutely right that Wales is not England No5, but the Lambeth Conference came out with a call for a moratoria on consecrations as bishop for anybody in a same-sex union. I’m not sure that the level of sex in the union was in any sense a factor in that call.

    Ryan – I always argued that once Dr John had withdrawn from Reading, receiving any other post in England that didn’t have a pointy hat would be a tacit expression of defeat by the liberal wing. Of course, as I have noted above, Wales isn’t England.

    I’m reminded of the line from Thomas More to Rich at the end of the trial in “A Man for All Seasons” on hearing that Rich has just been given a government post in Wales in exchange for perjuring himself to bring More to his death:

    What does it profit a man Rich if he gains the whole world but loses his soul? But for Wales, Rich, for Wales….

  3. Yikes! Whose death has JJ encompassed?  Have I missed something again?
    Actually I must admit I too thought briefly of that quotation but more along the lines of “If he is prepared to give up a nice home counties deanery for an impoverished Welsh bishopric he must really take discipleship seriously”.  Always supposing that he is so prepared, of course, not to mention supposing that he is asked.
    Hmmm … If there are any Welsh people viewing Peter’s and my comments they are probably not feeling too charitable towards us, I fear.

  4.  Peter, you’ll know a lot more about this than me, but :If one is put forward to be a Bishop then isn’t it meant to do with the Holy Spirit being at work and therefore one has to accept? Maybe I’m naive, but it would be strange to just treat it like politics, where one can turn down a position of power because the timing isn’t right.

  5. Nope Ryan, Councils can err.

    In the same way that the Spirit would never guide you to murder someone, so He would also never guide someone who rejected his word. Humans on the other hand are terribly good at going where God doesn’t want them, and finding all kinds of reasons why.

  6. Hi Peter, I wasn’t talking about a liberal/conservative issue. Presumably if you or any other orthodox vicar got put forward to be a Bishop you couldn’t (as John would seem to be saying by not wanting a bishop’s job in wales) just say that you’re holding out for something bigger, or that you’re happier just being a priest? Is there supposed to be a call to be a Bishop in the same way there is to be priest (or deacon initially)?

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