Church to be investigated after Bishop ‘denied promotion because he’s gay’

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An investigation has been opened after a gay cleric was barred from being appointed as a bishop.

The Dean of St Albans Cathedral, Jeffrey John, applied to become a bishop but was rejected, sparking the cleric to write a letter calling the church out for its “anti-gay discrimination”.

Now five members of the Church in Wales’ electoral college – its senior body – have signed a letter condemning the process, saying there were “deeply inappropriate” references to Dr Jeffrey John’s homosexuality when considering his nomination.

The Electoral College members are part of the church’s secretive elite group who decide promotions within the organisation.

Five of the 47 members have said that the process was “prejudiced” and thus “invalid”, according to Christian Today.

The letter, sent to the Church’s most senior executive Simon Lloyd, said: “We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales’s own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.

“We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.”

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.”

Now the church’s boss has called for confidentiality, as an investigation is launched into the process.

He told the elite group of electors: “The timescale is a matter for the Legal sub-committee and is dependent upon the amount of analysis required and how many times they need to meet.

“The deliberations of the Committee cannot and should not be hurried.”

A statement has now been issued from the Church in Wales, confirming there will be an investigation.

This is despite previously claiming they had been “satisfied that the Electoral College process was carried out properly and fairly”.

A spokesperson said: “Five members of the Electoral College, which was assembled to elect the Bishop of Llandaff in February, have now submitted a complaint to the Secretary of the Electoral College.

“Their complaint is in relation to certain aspects of the conduct of the College. This matter has now been referred to the Legal Sub-Committee, which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.

“The responsibility of appointing the next Bishop of Llandaff has passed to the Bench of Bishops.

“It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.”

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.

Last week, the Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, Rt Revd David Wilbourne, 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 also expressed concern about the allegations of homophobia, including 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.

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.”