Wednesday 7 July 2010

Jeffrey John will not be the next Bishop of Southwark

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.

Colin Coward


  1. Infuriating. Learned about it from a Face Book entry by Ruth Gledhill.

    They may destroy an organization, but they will never destroy a church.

  2. Can the words about the Archbishop of Canterbury unilaterally vetoing Jeffrey John’s name really be true?

    What a way to redress a breach of confidentiality!

  3. Judas only betrayed his friend once. Rowan has him beat now.

  4. Mimi
    that is a good question! Can we really know any of this?
    Did you read Nick Baine's blog?

  5. Ruth Gledhill is obviously wrong to blame the ABC (rather than the person responsible for the leak). The ABC was angry at the leak; and it would have been wrong *not* to be angry at the leak.
    If there were several names on the shortlist, how can anyone be outraged that one particular name was not chosen? No-one has a divine right to be the chosen candidate from a shortlist. Least of all when those who object don't even know who, or how meritorious, the other names were. Logic, please. Best wishes, Christopher Shell

  6. Thank you, Fr Colin, for your calm and reasoned comments, described by Wynne-Jones as "hysterical". We have known the Church stinks for some time. That's hardly hysterical news.

  7. Southwark cleric8 July 2010 at 16:14

    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.

    Criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury in all this only weakens the church. We have to pray and think about what will bring unity and above all GROWTH to Southwark.

  8. Aer you sure it was leaked by an evangelical? The accompanying guff with it didn't read like that. It looked rather as though the leaker wanted to apply pressure to the Commission and make it difficult to appoint anyone else.

    A rather similar thing happened to the Crown Appointments Commission when considering the last vacancy in the Metropolitical See of Canterbury ...

  9. Re Southwark Cleric's point 4 above. Ruth Gledhill reported in The Times on 12 May that Southwark Diocese (described as "very rich") had a higher level of unrestricted funds available to it than any other diocese in the country; "an astonishing £25m". Sounds to me like they have more than a little to fall back on.

    Apologies for not being able to post the link.


  10. To think that the glories of Anglicanism has been sold for a pottage of Donatism and Post Colonial Guilt.

  11. A catalogue of typically sensationalist clear media errors which have been gullibly swallowed whole:
    (1) How can someone on a shortlist be understood (no details given) to be the front runner?
    (2) How can this be the case even before the relevant discussion has taken place?
    (3) How can this be the case when the identity and merits of the others listed is not even known by those who make the claim?
    (4) How can it be right for the ABC to accept leaks like a doormat?
    (5) How can people comment (e.g. in today's Times letters) who know nothing of the appointment process and see the whole thing (predictably) as a human rights issue?
    (6) How can those who claim to be anti-discrimination be so much in favour of discrimination that they virtually claim that a gay candidate *must* be chosen above the non-gay candidates from a shortlist of around 6?
    Jonathan Wynne-Jones says that to blame the media for all this is like blaming the weather for the rain. He is right. Weather an rain overlap as closely as do the media and sensationalist papers-selling misrepresentation. Best wishes, Christopher Shell

  12. Why is Jeffrey John ashamed of what he said?
    Why can't people be open about their opinions? Being afraid is a sign of cowardice and dishonesty.

  13. Andrew from Exeter. Saddened by all the hostility from all 'sides' and traditions within the Church of England. We are simply in Christ, and saved only by His sacrificial love and grace. What message does this send to the unchurched, outside the kingdom of God? When Jesus Christ returns in glory, what will count is: what we have done for Him, and the least of my breathren. Go back to the Bible and His commandments!