Revealed: Gay clergyman rejected seven times for promotion to bishop

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A gay clergyman has been refused a promotion seven times, it has been revealed.

The Dean of St Albans Cathedral, Dr. Jeffrey John, has applied to be a bishop on seven occasions, every time being passed over in favour of another candidate.

He was originally appointed as Bishop of Reading in 2003, but the appointment was rescinded after homophobic protests from some within the church.

The clergyman has since written a letter calling the church out for its “anti-gay discrimination”.

Dr. John was put forward for the post of Bishop of Sodor and Man in February, but failed to make it on to the shortlist despite positive feedback.

The dioceses of Southwark, Exeter, and St Edmundsbury and Ipswich have considered him as a candidate for bishop, but all have rejected his candidacy, according to the Guardian.

The Church of England was also forced to deny he was set to become bishop of Durham.

In Wales, as well as the being rejected for bishop of Llandaff, he was left off shortlists in Bangor and St Asaph.

There is no ban on gay men becoming bishops, but members of its electoral colleges were reminded of a moratorium on consecrating bishops who are in civil partnerships, which is placed on provinces by the Anglican communion.

It comes after Dr. John claimed the Anglican church has denied him a promotion to Bishop of Llandaff because of his sexuality.

Despite previously claiming they had been “satisfied that the Electoral College process was carried out properly and fairly”, the church has since been forced to open an investigation into the complaints of homophobia.

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

Revealed: Gay clergyman rejected seven times for promotion to bishop

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. John, currently Dean of St Albans, spoke out publicly to condemn his alleged 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.”

When Dr. John was shortlisted for the diocese of Southwark, he faired a similar fate.

Colin Slee, the dean of Southwark Cathedral and panel member, wrote in documents only seen after his death: “The meeting was not a fair consideration at all.”

Slee claimed that the archbishops of Canterbury and York were “intent on wrecking” the candidacy of Dr. John, “despite the fact that their CVs were startlingly in an entirely different and better league than the other two candidates, and probably every one of the new bishops I can recall in the past 15 years”.

Alan Wilson, the bishop of Buckinghamshire, said: “There is a pattern here, and I’m amazed that after all these years there is still so much mendacious obfuscation about appointing Jeffrey John as a bishop.

“It calls into question the sincerity of all the church’s hand-wringing apologies to gay and lesbian people.”

A spokesperson for the church in Wales confirmed there will be an investigation: “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.”

The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, Rt Revd David Wilbourne, announced his resignation following the latest row, saying he had come under “considerable and in­­creas­ing pressure to relinquish my post”.

Speaking to the Church Times about his 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 fulfill.”

In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Anglican church said: “We do not comment on Crown Nominations Commission business.

“We would resist strongly any suggestion that selections for senior appointments are influenced by the sexuality of candidates.”