Who’s Leaking?

Jonathan Wynne-Jones has the scoop this evening.

I can reveal that Dr Jeffrey John, the openly gay but celibate Dean of St Albans, has been blocked from becoming a bishop once again. He has not been chosen as the next Bishop of Southwark. Liberals will be dismayed that the Church has lost its nerve – but there is no reason for evangelicals to celebrate, either. This is bad news whichever way you look at it:

1) The Church has missed an opportunity to show that it is inclusive of homosexuals.

2) Jeffrey John has gained a reputation as a gifted preacher and effective pastor at St Albans cathedral and would have been a popular bishop.

3) It indicates that the Crown Nominations Commission is afraid of appointing any bishops who might bring a bit of colour.

4) A dignified and talented cleric has been embarrassed again.

5) The row over homosexual clergy could have been brought to a head, but will now fester until a gay priest is finally made a bishop.

It is also bad news for Rowan Williams. Although he is only one of 14 members of the Commission, liberals will be perplexed as to why he allowed John’s name to be included on the shortlist if it was only to be rejected at the last minute. To be fair, he didn’t know that this fact would be leaked to me, and he is said to have been livid with the Commission that it was. But, given what happened in 2003 and his apparent distress at forcing his old friend to stand down from becoming Bishop of Reading, it will surprise many that he didn’t use his influence to try and sway the few undecided members who could have secured his selection.

The Archbishop has appeared increasingly resolute and self-assured over recent months, but liberals will be left wondering why he loses his backbone when it comes to fighting their corner. Even conservative evangelicals made clear that there was no reason to object to the dean’s appointment this time round, pointing to the fact that he has stressed that his homosexual relationship is celibate.

The opportunity has gone however, and with it probably John’s hopes of ever being made a bishop. If he can’t get Southwark, the most liberal of all the Church’s dioceses, there is little chance he’ll be promoted elsewhere.
It also may represent the Archbishop’s last chance to oversee the appointment of an openly gay bishop and to advance the liberal cause that he championed before moving to Canterbury.

Instead of being remembered as the radical pro-gay archbishop the evangelicals feared, Dr Williams appears far more conservative than anyone could ever have imagined.

That last sentence intrigues me and makes me highly suspicious about the whole thing. Someone has acted like a mole to try and achieve a particular purpose, namely to set back the revisionist agenda. Here’s the question everybody wants answering now – who leaked and why?

Think about it – these last few days have damaged the liberal cause in the Church of England no end. The Crown Nominations Commission has demonstrated that it won’t stick its neck out. More than that though, Dr John has been put through the public mill again for no fault of his own.

Who did it? Here are the members – you tell me, though I have my suspicions!

Southwark Members

April Alexander
Vasantha Gnanadoss
Adrian Greenwood
Christine Hardman
Ruth Kirk-Wilson
Andrew Nunn

Ex-Officio Members

Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of York

Elected Members – House of Clergy
The Very Revd Colin Slee (Deans)
The Revd Canon Peter Spiers (Liverpool)
The Revd Canon Glyn Webster (York)

Elected Members – House of Laity

Mr Aiden Hargreaves-Smith (London)
Professor Glynn Harrison (Bristol)
Mrs Mary Johnston (London)


Ms Caroline Boddington (Archbishops’ Appointments Secretary)
Mr Paul Britton (Prime Minister’s Appointments Secretary for senior ecclesiastical appointments)

23 Comments on “Who’s Leaking?

  1. Legalistically, Jeffrey John might be argued to tick the boxes on moral behaviour in order to be consecrated, but his "persona" is divisive in the church – hardly suitable for the epicopüpacy – especially after what the Windsor report says about communion wide agreement etc.

    If he has been passed over, I wonder what it will do to the voting at GS this weekend as they decide the fate of clergy and churches conscienciously unable to accept the ministry of women bishops?

    • I think you're right on the fact that his very self was the issue. I do think though that the solution I proposed would have been a way to let Dr John be a bishop (he certainly has the pastoral qualities) and still maintain the integrity of the church and the role of the bishop in enforcing the doctrine and praxis of the church.

      • Peter, I may just be overreacting to words here, but "his very self" is a strong phrase – I thought you'd said before that it was his teaching that was the problem, not his identity?

        in friendship, Blair

  2. Not totally sure what to make of this… though the odds on Nick Holtam for the See of Southwark must have just shortened. But it seems to me that both Jonathan W-J as well as whoever leaked this to him, have a lot to answer for. O to have been a fly on the wall at Commission meetings…


  3. Could it possibly be that word reached the Commission from Buckingham Palace that Her Maj would not countenance the Church being torn apart in this way? The liberal hierarchy in the Church may think we have got over what they perceive as our 'homophobia' in the six years since the Reading fiasco, but I am sure she is more in touch with ordinary people. Everyone I have spoken to is horrified by this nomination.

    Colin Coward seems to think that Nick Holtam will not be appointed either. I don't know where he gets his information.


    • lol! If that was so, then surely Her Majesty would have said something negative about GAFcon (as you'll recall, she sent a general greeting to the event which they rather pathetically spun as an endorsement) and the schismatic reactionary forces that +Rowan is so beholden to. I'm not sure how the 'Global South'or reactionary (but rich!) evangelicals supplanting Canterbury and deciding to ignore their bishops is quite in the interests of the Head of the C of E.

      And : 'horrified', Jill, really? At a *celibate* gay becoming a bishop? I haven't spoken to anyone who's 'horrified' by the announcement, let alone 'everyone' (!). Which, anectodal evidence being what it is, proves precisely nothing, except, perhaps, that we're more…relaxed…in the Scottish Episcopal Church :)

  4. I know as certain fact that Her Maj does receive people's partners of the members of the St George's Chapel choir who are married or in a civil partnership, but not otherwise, so I am doubtful if Jill has correctly divined the mind of our sovereign on the matter of Dr John's suitability. I can't be more specific for obvious reasons but I think trying to draw the queen into the nasty squabbles of church factions is to misrepresent her.

  5. I certainly have no intention of drawing the Queen into any squabbles, Tom. It was merely a theory. She is the only person who is higher up the food chain than the Archbishop of Canterbury. It cannot surely have been he who pulled the plug on Jeffery John, having apparently only just given him the nod, so who?

    My understanding, too, from what I have read, is that nobody on the Commission actually has the authority to 'block' any of the nominees – the candidate is chosen by a series of votes interspersed with prayer. In which case he lost fair and square.

    The real scandal is that he was nominated in the first place. Whatever the cleverclogs in blogland say, to the rest of the population he would always have been 'the gay bishop', leaving the door wide open for non-celibate gay bishops. Let's not pretend that this wouldn't have happened.

    • >>The real scandal is that he was nominated in the first place.

      Really. He's the most qualified candidate and lives according the C of E guidelines. Is it a scandal because he's gay? And, if so, said objection is not best described by the frowned-on 'homophobia' why exactly? I'm assuming that not everyone who agrees with Peter on the 'post-gay' paradigm has underwent change in their sexuality; are 'evangelical gays' unacceptable too?

      I suspect Her Majesty is better informed than all the Shocked and Disgusted at teh gays people you spoke to Jill;

      >>>The real scandal is that he was nominated in the first place. Whatever the cleverclogs in blogland say, to the rest of the population he would always have been ‘the gay bishop’,

      Oh, I daresay – to judge from today's headline – that the Daily Express type 'Christian' (i.e. : whipping up bigotry to sell papers)ideology would have torn him to shreds but that, much like your revelatory failure above to distinguish between gay people and particular acts, is but one more reason to keep fighting the good fight.

      • 'He’s the most qualified candidate' !!! Says who? Who are the other nominees, so we may compare? Having read much of his material I would say that he needs to work a little harder at his theology. I am no theologian, but really, the 'prawns' argument …

        Do read 'Not big, and not clever' written in 2004 by John Richardson, who sums up this argument thus: If (Jeffrey)John really believes this is an adequate response to those who quote the Old Testament on moral issues, he should give up his title as Canon Theologian.


  6. Hi Peter, I agree with your post on him being acceptable if he were to clearly affirm that he would enforce the HoB policy…. But there would have been no chance of that; as you say – he must know way too much about the private arrangements of many gay clergy in Southwark!

    BUT I'm still intrigued by the effect the timing of these leaks will have on GS's deliberations on "the other" contentious issue (what to do with non-women's-ministry-affirming clergy and churches).

  7. I have read in various newspaper reports that it was Rowan Williams who pulled the plug, Jill, in a moment of anger when he heard of the leak. If Rowan Williams did do it I find that very hard to understand. As you say, not everyone agrees that individual members can "pull" a candidate….but if he loses a principal proposer's support it is anyone's guess who else would fight his corner.

    Another comment I read on one of the blogs was that when Tony Blair was PM he kept sending the list for Liverpool back as unsatisfactory until James Jones's name was included….and that David Cameron might consider the same option with Southwark until they do include John's name on the list.

    I am interested in your view that the appointment of Dr John would be disastrous. But for whom? On the contrary it would make a strong statement against perceived homophobic bullying on the part of Rowan Williams and give the shot in the arm the, in many people's view, ailing, eternally bickering, church of England needs. Clearly Dr John has not exactly emptied the cathedral at St Albans…..

  8. Tom, the truth is that neither you nor I know what happened, and we can only read rumour and counter-rumour from various newspaper reports and blogs. We will probably never know.

    Talking of blogs, I was interested to read this on Changing Attitude’s blog from 'Southwark Cleric'

    1) Leaking is not Christian behaviour. To be condemned. Whoever does it.

    2) This would have happened without the leak. Many public and private letters of protest have been written over the last 2 weeks to the Archbishop and other authorities: apparently the Acting Diocesan Bishop has been been deluged.

    3) It was not just conservative evangelicals: it has been conservative ev's, charismatics, open ev's, and traditionally minded AngloCatholics

    4) Jeffrey John did not go to Reading for one reason: the Diocese of Oxford had been warned it would have gone bankrupt within a year. The same may have happened in Southwark. Jeffrey John could have cost all of us very dearly.

    Do not be deceived by the attendance at St Albans Cathedral. All cathedrals have increased attendance as general church attendance falls.


  9. I still don't understand why Dr John's appointment to Southwark would be disastrous in your opinion, Jill. You've shown some wobbly bits of theology but then isn't it a rather wobbly subject – hardly the queen of the sciences the medievals would have had us believe! Even Aquinas described his Summa as so much straw. Anyway is scriptural exegesis really theology? The best arguments against treating homosexuality as different from prawns (i.e. against trying to bracket it out from ceremonial law) comes from the Jews themselves (who ought to know their own scriptures better than any one). I refer to the commentary by Jacob Milgrom which many of the experts (I'm not one I hasten to add but I do read reviews) say is magisterial. His reading doesn't give support for the "lying with" passages to be justifiably separated from the ceremonial law in the way it has been by Christian medieval and later commentators.

  10. It would be uncharitable to speculate – there has been far too much of that sort of thing already – but looking at that list, I can see one name that jumps out straight away: a well-known supporter of Global South and no friend of the ABC. There may be others. Which makes it all the stranger that Rowan (according to Steven Bates and Riazat Butt in the Guardian) was apparently furious at "liberals" for – as he believed – leaking the Very Rev'd Dr John's name. Now, it's more than likely that the Archbishop knows things we don't, but it's very hard to see a) what liberals would gain from putting this about, and b) why they would go to Jonathan Wynne-Jones at the Telegraph, of all people and publications. Nevertheless, I hope the Archbishop apprehends the leaker, whoever he or she might be, and gets medieval archbishop on their ass. We have enough problems without this sort of tawdry carry-on.

  11. There's a very obvious motive for liberals to leak: to put pressure on the CNC, and embarrass Rowan Williams into supporting Jeffrey John's appointment. If they did leak, it backfired on them.

  12. The Diocese of Oxford would have gone bankrupt in a year? Exactly where did that bit of financial calculation come from, given it's a pretty wealthy Diocese? (seen the accounts) There are many people who will not go to church and will not give to church because of its anti-gay and anti-women stances. Did they factor in the increase in revenue from attracting them, or did they only look at the few who might leave if we offer equality of love and opportunity to all? 24% of people in the recent major research cited anti-gay policies in our church as the reason they won't attend. Other major research shows that 70% of the public are happy with LGBT issues. So some of the remaining 30% hold everyone else to ransom with threats about money? Gee, not the best Christian response I've heard, if so.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.