Homosexuality furor forces withdrawal of chosen bishop

Published September 1, 2003

Canon Jeffrey John stepped down as appointed Bishop of Reading for ‘unity of the church.’

Canon Jeffrey John, an openly gay priest whose appointment as Bishop of Reading in the diocese of Oxford drew both support and condemnation, asked on July 6 that his name be withdrawn from consideration.

In a letter to the bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, Mr. John said he wished to withdraw for the sake of “the unity of the church” Bishop Harries had appointed Mr. John a suffragan (assistant) bishop on May 20.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, issued a statement acknowledging that Mr. John’s appointment had “brought to light a good deal of unhappiness among people who could by no means described as extremists” on the issue of homosexuality in the church.

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, the country with the largest number of practising Anglicans, had been among the most vociferous critics of Mr. John’s appointment, and had threatened to sever links with dioceses that endorse homosexual relations.

“The estrangement of churches in developing countries from their cherished ties with Britain is in no one’s interests. It would impoverish us as a church in every way,” said Archbishop Williams.

But the archbishop also said some of the opposition to the appointment had been “very unsavoury indeed” and some letters he had received “displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people.”


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