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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 June, 2003, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Gay bishop set to be ordained
Canon Jeffrey John
Dr John's supporters want the issue resolved privately
The ordination of a gay priest as Bishop of Reading is expected to go ahead despite a growing split within the Church.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has so far remained silent on the issue while his bishops have been divided on the controversial appointment of Canon Jeffrey John.

However Dr Williams is said to be determined to ordain Dr John as Bishop of Reading on 9 October, according to BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.

Dr John has been in a relationship with a man for 27 years but says he is now celibate.
We are not in the business of discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation
Archbishop's appointments secretary, Tony Sadler

One of his opponents, Dr Philip Giddings, used his Sunday service in Reading to tell about 300 worshippers why the appointment was wrong.

The lay minister at Greyfriars Church made oblique references in his sermon, such as: "We are not free to discard what is said in the Bible, however unpopular... and no matter how some might say the world has moved on."

Dr Williams has previously argued for tolerance for homosexuals, and has admitted ordaining a gay priest.

But he has also insisted he intends to abide by the traditional teachings of the church, thus precluding the ordination of actively gay priests.

'No discrimination'

The archbishop's appointments secretary, Tony Sadler, who shortlisted Dr John for appointment by the Bishop of Oxford, told the Sunday Times: "We are not in the business of discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation".

Mr Sadler, one of the archbishop's most senior aides, has not previously spoken about the row.
Bishop
This is a premature appointment coming at a critical time in the life of the Church before a point of consensus has been reached
Rt Reverend James Jones

The paper also reported two gay men have already been ordained as Anglican bishops in the 1990s with the full knowledge of senior clergy.

Almost half the church's senior bishops have voiced their views in the media about Dr John's nomination.

But Bishop of Leicester, Timothy Stevens, said the time had come for the two factions to discuss the issue privately - a process which would take a long time.

He is one of eight Anglican bishops who wrote to Dr Williams saying the selection has their full confidence.

'Catastrophic'

However, Dr John's appointment has been described as "catastrophic" for the Church of England by evangelical and conservative opponents.

Rt Reverend James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, said: "This is a premature appointment coming at a critical time in the life of the Church before a point of consensus has been reached."

The Rt Rev Stevens told BBC News he regretted the way the debate had been conducted.

"A number of us feel that we all now need to get back to the serious discussion in which we try to discern God's will for us and that's going to take a long time.

"This will be best done out of the glare of the media, which is where we need to be for the next few years as we try to work this one out."

His words follow intense media coverage of the row since a group of nine bishops wrote a letter to the Times at the start of the week, opposing Dr John's appointment.

On Friday, a group of evangelical and conservative Anglicans met the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, who selected Dr John, in a final - but unsuccessful - attempt to try to change his mind.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Traditionalists say the bible outlaws physical homosexual relationships"



SEE ALSO:
Gay bishop answers critics
20 Jun 03  |  UK
Should the church accept gay clergy?
19 Jun 03  |  Have Your Say


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