According to the UK Telegraph newpaper, members of the Crown Nominations Commission including Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, rejected Dr Jeffrey John as a candidate for Bishop of Southwark. Johns, Dean of St Albans, is in a civil partner with another priest, was on the shortlist for the post and was considered to be a front-runner for the job. David Cameron had been made aware of his nomination and is believed to have been supportive of promoting the homosexual cleric.
The Telegraph said a secret meeting of senior Church figures rejected John fearing that his consecration would cause a split in the Church. Opponents had warned that evangelical parishes would not recognize him as a bishop and would seek “alternative Episcopal oversight”. Those who favor ordaining gay clergy as bishops believed he was a well qualified candidate and that his appointment would signal a move towards greater inclusion for homosexuals in the Church.
Archbishop Williams was reported as furious at the pressure placed on him by The Sunday Telegraph, which revealed the dean was on the shortlist. He asked the rest of the Commission to swear an oath of secrecy about the talks.
Church insiders said his name would not have been included unless there were plans to make him a bishop, as Dr John was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.
The issue of women and gay clergy and bishops is as contentious in the UK as it is elsewhere, yet for all his efforts to contain the pressure to be more inclusive the Archbishop of Canterbury seems clearly on the side of the more conservative members of the Church in resisting these changes as long as he can.
It would be easy to turn up our nose at the plight of the Archbishop of Canterbury, after all he has ‘stepped in it’ so many times trying to be ‘compromising’ in finding a middle ground to avoid the conflicts he faces. Instead, I’m going to pray for Rowan Williams asking the Holy Spirit to fill his heart with faith in all who love God and seek Christ in his churches regardless of their color, sex or other labels. If those things do not matter to Christ why should they be so tough for Rowan to see in his heart?