Jonathan Wynne-Jones has ‘revealed’ in the Telegraph that Jeffrey John is not to be nominated as the next Bishop of Southwark. Neither, so I am told, will Nick Holtham, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, be nominated.
This is painfully disappointing news for Jeffrey, who has lived through a week in which his identity and reputation have been pored over, analysed and attacked once again by conservative forces in the church in a way which I can only describe as poisonous. Those who claim the moral and ethical high ground in the church behave in ways which are scandalous and unchristian.
Anglican Mainstream deliberately left a link to the lecture that Dr Jeffrey John gave to the Post Lambeth 1998 Affirming Catholicism Conference entitled “The Church and Homosexuality : Post-Lambeth Reflections” at the top of their home page until this evening, when it suddenly disappeared, its work done.
How was Jonathan able to leak the news? Because someone on the Crown Nomination Commission for the Southwark appointment ignored the absolute confidentiality of the group and deliberately leaked information about yesterday’s meeting to a conservative hostile to Jeffrey and LGBT people in the church. That person, for a second time, passed the information to Jonathan Wynne-Jones - one of the non-voting members, perhaps?
Conservative Evangelicals are ruthless in their determination to win total control of the church, even if in the process, they destroy the Church of England’s ability to communicate the gospel to the nation, and destroy the unity of the Anglican Communion, by whatever unprincipled, destructive means possible.
Archbishop Rowan was apparently so furious about the first leak that he unilaterally vetoed Jeffrey’s name, betraying his friend for a second time and handing an apparent victory to the conservatives who seem to be successfully controlling him. Archbishop Rowan would have directed his anger in a more healthy direction if he had targetted the people inside and outside the Commission who have deliberately sabotaged its work.
Jonathan lists a number of reasons why this is bad news. I think he omits far more important reasons why it is bad news. It is a capitulation to forces within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion which represent a reactionary attitude to scripture and a negative attitude towards the glory, goodness and infinite variety and beauty of God’s creation.
It communicates an image of the church and Christianity to our nation in which we are perceived to be bigoted, prejudiced, narrow-minded and lacking in the primary Christian virtue of love.
It may be the final opportunity to nominate Jeffrey to a diocese and it may be the last opportunity the Archbishop of Canterbury has to appoint an openly gay person as a bishop, but that isn’t what matters tonight, because the Church of England still has closeted gay bishops and an increasing number of open and partnered LGBT priests.
Reform, Anglican Mainstream, Stand Firm, VirtueOnline and the other conservative forces in the church don’t seem to understand that God simply calls LGBT into faith and ministry and we find ways of inhabiting space in the church in which, despite the painful attacks and scandalous dishonesty, remains a place in which we can live into the Kingdom of God, creating by our presence and example, a church which is in the process of welcoming all, saints and sinners, redeemed and in need of redemption, all on the way to a holy transformation.
Tonight, the church stinks. Tomorrow in the dawn light, it will become glorious again for this gay priest and for my many, many friends, gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, lay, ordained, bishops and archbishops, for whom it is our glorious home. There is nothing, not even betrayal by a member of the Crown Nominations Commission, that can ever separate us from the infinite love of God in Jesus Christ.