South East Wales

Church urged to re-run Bishop of Llandaff appointment

The Very Rev Jeffrey John
Image caption Dr Jeffrey John was nominated as Bishop of Reading but asked to withdraw from the role

A Christian group wants the Church in Wales to restart its Bishop of Llandaff appointment process after a priest said he was rejected because he is gay.

Dean of St Albans Cathedral, Dr Jeffrey John, accused the Church in Wales of homophobia after he was not appointed.

LGBT campaign group One Body One Voice said many in the diocese were unhappy he was not chosen after more than half of the electoral college voted for him.

The Church denied homophobia and said it had no plans to redo the process.

The group has published an open letter to the Welsh bishops in which they urge the Church not to appoint a new Bishop of Llandaff.

The decision is due to be made by Church bishops after an electoral college of bishops, clergy and lay people failed to reach a decision.

It is understood Dr John secured more than half the votes, but fell short of the two-thirds majority required by the Church.

Image copyright Church in Wales
Image caption Attempts to select a new Bishop of Llandaff have so far been unsuccessful

The letter said: "The confidentiality of your processes has been blown open in a way that is very uncomfortable for you.

"Jeffrey John has accused you collectively of not following due process in the way you have treated his candidature; of using his supposed notoriety, his sexuality and his relationship as an excuse for not appointing him.

"It is more difficult to fathom why you have acted in this way when three factors are taken into account: first, that he fulfilled the requirements of the Church in Wales in relation to the status and nature of his relationship.

"Secondly, that in the only other case of an appointment after a deadlocked electoral college, the candidate appointed was arguably just as controversial as Jeffrey John.

"Lastly, the reported unanimity of the Llandaff electors is a strong indication of what they wish to happen."

The letter refers to an appointment for the role of Bishop of Bangor in 2004, when the candidate was a divorced and remarried man who it is claimed failed to gain a two-thirds majority in the vote, but was appointed anyway.

'Popular choice'

The letter is authored by the chairman of One Body One Faith Jeremy Pemberton, a canon in the Church of England, and chief executive Tracey Byrne.

Canon Pemberton, who lost his own employment tribunal over a same-sex marriage last year, warned the Church not to impose a candidate who was not wanted by the majority of the congregation.

He said: "Dean Jeffrey John was the popular choice. He is a local boy, this would be him coming home. He is a good candidate, he should be a bishop already."

Dr John, who is originally from Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taff, was nominated as Bishop of Reading in 2003, but was asked to withdraw from the role by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

He entered a civil partnership with Grant Holmes in 2006, but said at the time he had remained celibate, in line with Church teaching.

The Church has said it was still searching for a new bishop, but would not consider previous candidates.

A Church in Wales spokeswoman 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 Constitution of the Church in Wales requires that an electoral college meets for up to three days and that if the college fails to elect, the decision passes to the Bench of Bishops.

"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 under way and we see no reason to halt it.

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

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