A PROMINENT gay cleric has accused the Church in Wales of being “homophobic” in an open letter in which he condemns the decision to reject him for the vacant Bishop of Llandaff post.
The Very Reverend Jeffrey John, who is thought to have secured most of the votes in the first round of the electoral college but not the required two-thirds majority, believes the only reason he was turned down was because of his sexuality.
Dr John, the current Dean of St Albans, published his reply to a letter he was sent by The Right Reverend John Davies, acting Archbishop of Wales, stating that Dr John would no longer be considered for the role.
Dr John called the decision “a clear and ludicrous breach of process”.
In his letter, he accuses the Church of “anti-gay discrimination” – a claim which is strongly denied by The Church in Wales.
Dr John, who has been rejected from similar roles in the past, has now asked that the election be halted until the completion of an “open and honest examination of this process in the light of day”.
In his letter, Dr John details how “remarks” about his sexuality and civil partnership to fellow cleric Grant Holmes were, “left unchecked and reprimanded by the chair”, despite reassurances from the senior Bishop Davies that the Bench were warned against using such arguments for or against a candidate.
“The only arguments adduced against my appointment – in particular by two of the bishops – were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership,” his letter said.
Dr John is understood to have secured a large number of votes in the first round of the election process but did not receive the two-thirds majority needed to be named bishop-elect, however he remains the firm favourite of local church members.
In response to the Bench’s decision to ignore the choice of electors, Dr John said: “To ride roughshod of the very clearly expressed, unanimous view of a diocese in this way is extraordinary, unprecedented and foolish.”
The church began the process of finding a new Bishop with an electoral college last month, but none of the candidates received the required number of votes. It now falls to the church’s current Bishops to choose someone, after taking soundings from the diocese.
It is understood that the Bishops have decided not to consider any of the candidates from the first round, despite support expressed for them from people in the church, because it would call into question the integrity of the electoral college process.
Dr John, who says he “suspects hundreds” of people have written to support his candidacy, has also criticised the Church’s policy of confidentiality around the process by which a new Bishop is appointed.
“I have repeatedly found that in these matters bishops and other ecclesiastical authorities routinely abuse confidentiality as a cloak for injustice and deception. I admire those who have breached the confidentiality of the Electoral College because they saw that the oath of confidentiality was being abused in precisely that way.
“They are the ones who have acted with courage and principle,” he said.
Dr John said that some of the Bishops believed his appointment would, “bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese”.
Dr John claimed that one Bishop told him that they were “just too exhausted” to deal with the problems that would arise from appointing him, during a telephone conversation on March 3.
In response to this, Dr John wrote: “I put it to you that this is not a moral or legal basis on which to exclude me.”
The Bench of Bishops has called for an investigation into breaches of confidence during the election, when Dr John and others were told what was being said during the meetings.
“They [the Church] seem to have gone on lockdown,” said Canon Philip Masson who presides over the Parish of Newton, Nottage and Porthcawl in the Llandaff Diocese.
“If the story told by Jeffrey John is true it is worrying that a major part of their [the Bishops’] outrage, like all those caught out, seems to be directed towards the whistleblowers and not the substance of what is reported.
“To allow homophobic statements without reproof from the Chair ( Bishop John Davies) is in effect to condone them.”
Paul Middleton, a theology and religious studies lecturer at Chester University, who has previously spoken about the election said: “Jeffrey John’s letter is as extraordinary as it is incendiary and now creates a massive headache for the Bench of Bishops.
“It would be very difficult for anyone to accept an invitation to become Bishop of Llandaff until this situation is resolved.”