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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Gay bishop defends 27-year relationship
The Anglican church is divided over Dr John's appointment
A gay bishop has defended his relationship with his partner of 27 years, following calls for his resignation from senior figures in the Anglican church.

Dr Jeffrey John, the new Bishop of Reading, said that the relationship was "for life" and that he would not stand down.

He told the Times newspaper: "The relationship has not been sexually expressed for years. The love and commitment are, if anything, greater."

Dr John's appointment has tested the tolerance of the Anglican church, with a group of nine senior Church of England bishops writing to national newspapers to express their anger.

'Symbol of hope'

Dr John told the Times that there was not doubt his relationship would last.

I wrestled hugely with it and prayed about it, as I think so many gay people do
Dr Jeffrey John

He said: "It is a permanent thing. That must not be denied."

The bishop said his appointment to a senior post within the church would be a "symbol of hope for an awful lot of people".

Dr John said the church should bless same sex relationships, although he and his partner would not go through such a ceremony and he would not perform one himself.

'Wrestled hugely'

The bishop said it was his duty to live by the church's demand for celibacy among the gay clergy as it was "a matter of corporate discipline".

The church claims to advocate good will to all men and yet religion is one of the few institutions left that fails to support equality for gay people.
Gary Mark Williams, England

But he added that it was not a rule which could "hold for long".

Dr John also spoke about his struggle with his sexuality.

"I was conscious of it from quite an early age, and that it was probably going to bring problems," he said.

"I certainly resisted and fought it. I wrestled hugely with it and prayed about it, as I think so many gay people do."

'Admirable qualities'

The appointment of Dr John, who is currently Canon Theologian at Southwark Cathedral, was proposed by the Right Reverend Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford.

Among those opposed were 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.

Their letter said: "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?"

Bishop Harries said he was "saddened" by the "well organised public campaign against Canon Jeffrey John".

The BBC's Robert Pigott
"For many Anglicans, to condone homosexuality is to disobey the bible itself"

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