Bishop quits after colleague ‘denied promotion because he’s gay’

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A Welsh bishop has announced his resignation amid a row over homophobia in the church.

The row was sparked within the Church in Wales after it was revealed that openly gay cleric Jeffrey John had been blocked from being appointed as Bishop of Llandaff.

Dr Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St Albans, spoke out publicly to condemn the apparent homophobic treatment, saying: “The only arguments adduced against my appointment… were directly related to my homosexuality. This is not a moral or legal basis on which to exclude me.”

There is no official ban on gay bishops, but it is not the first time Dr John’s appointment has been blocked. The cleric was nominated to become the Bishop of Reading previously, but forced to stand aside amid homophobic attacks.

This week, the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, Rt Revd David Wilbourne, has announced his resignation.

Rt Revd Wilbourne, who had strongly supported Dr John for the role, said he had come under “considerable and in­­creas­ing pressure to relinquish my post”.

Speaking to the Church Times about his impending departure, he said: “Ever since I knew that Jeffrey was in the frame for Llandaff, I thought it would speak mountains about our policy of inclusion. Wales has led on that; so I can’t understand why the bishops aren’t of the same mind.

“Whilst I can fully see that the next Bishop of Llandaff deserves the space to be their own person, for the moment I remain upbeat about serving in this thriving diocese, and carrying out the role I was called here and consecrated to fulfil.”

In his official statement, he had said it is “time to hand over the baton to the newly appointed Bishop of Llandaff, so he or she can run free, enabling the Church which I have cherished these past years to flourish”.

A group of nine Welsh MPs previously expressed concern about the allegations of homophobia.

An open letter headed by Madeleine Moon MP said: “We had heard from many quarters of concerns and allegations relating to homophobic comments made during the election process for the appointment of a Bishop of Llandaff.

“We are aware that neither homosexuality nor civil partnership are a bar to appointment within the Church in Wales. We are strongly of the opinion that leadership, scholarship, compassion and communication skills are the primary qualifications for the tasks facing a Bishop in Wales.

“We are sorry to hear the allegations, the distress and the acrimony recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Bishop of Llandaff have created within the Church.

“We are of the opinion that ‘exhaustion’ cannot be acceptable as a reason not to appoint someone eminently qualified and what we are informed was the unanimous choice of the electors of Llandaff.”

They added: “We respectfully recommend that there is a pause in the appointment process to allow emotions to cool and sound counsel to be heard. It would then appear appropriate that a new election is called, open to past and new candidates to apply and an open and transparent decision be made.”

The MPs included Stephen Doughty, Nia Griffiths and Chris Bryant, all of whom are openly gay.

Mr Bryant himself is a trained Anglican priest, who left the ordained ministry because of his sexuality.

A Church in Wales spokesperson said: “We understand the disappointment felt by all the candidates considered by the Electoral College who did not secure enough support to be elected as Bishop of Llandaff. However, we are satisfied that the Electoral College process was carried out properly and fairly.

“The meeting was confidential and we will not comment on speculation about the nomination and discussion of candidates. However, we strongly deny allegations of homophobia in the process. Neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership are a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected as a Bishop in the Church in Wales. Moreover, this was made clear to members of the Electoral College by its President, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.

“The Bishops have stressed during the whole process that whoever becomes Bishop of Llandaff, whatever their circumstances, will receive their full support.

“The Bishops are now acting carefully in full accordance with the Constitution. Unlike the Electoral College process, there is no fixed timetable for an appointment process, however, the Bishops would wish to announce any appointment made as soon as all necessary formalities are finalised. The appointment process is underway and we see no reason to halt it.”