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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 June, 2003, 07:48 GMT 08:48 UK
Bishops criticise gay rights appointment
The Bishop of Oxford
The bishop says Dr John was the best candidate
A group of bishops has written a joint letter criticising the appointment of a gay rights supporter as Bishop of Reading.

The Right Reverend Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, nominated Canon Jeffrey John, Chancellor and Canon Theologian at Southwark Cathedral, for the position of Bishop of Reading.

Dr John, who contributed to a book of prayers for gay Christians, has argued in favour of the Church accepting permanent, faithful same-sex relationships.

The letter states: "Dr John has many admirable qualities for the work of a bishop.

"But the issue is, what is acceptable sexual behaviour in God's sight?"

It is hard to see what effect this letter can have apart from highlighting the fact that the whole Church is divided on this issue
The Right Reverend Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford

Signatories include the Bishop of Winchester, the Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Right Reverend Graham Dow, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones. and the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

A statement issued by Bishop Harries said: "I am saddened that the well organised public campaign against Canon Jeffrey John's appointment has now been joined by senior bishops.

"Given that a number of diocesan bishops have assured me of their support for this appointment, it is hard to see what effect this letter can have apart from highlighting the fact that the whole Church is divided on this issue."

It added: "I am continuing to listen carefully to those who have concerns about this appointment.

"I would like to stress that the canon emerged in the course of a process conducted strictly according to guidelines.

"I would not have made the appointment had I not been quite sure that concerns, such as those expressed by the signatories in this letter, could be fully met."

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