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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 06:24 GMT 07:24 UK
Gay cleric installed at St Albans
Canon Jeffrey John
Dr John has been named the new Dean of St Albans
Anglican leaders called on the Church of England to put aside differences on gay priests, as a controversial cleric was appointed to a senior role.

On Friday, Dr Jeffrey John, 51, was formally installed as Dean of St Albans Cathedral.

He was persuaded to stand down from the Reading candidature after protests from conservative evangelicals in July 2003.

Conservative Anglicans have also criticised the appointment of Dr John, who says he is celibate.

About 2,000 people packed the cathedral for the service in which he was formally made rector of the parish of St Albans Abbey and Dean of St Albans Cathedral.

Call for peace

The Bishop of St Albans, Christopher Herbert, used his sermon to praise Dr John's courage in accepting the post and called for the churches' dignitaries and churchmen to listen to each other.

"There are very, very many who are absolutely thrilled; and there are some of my fellow Christians who have been, and remain, deeply upset, angry and dismayed.

"What we have to do is listen deeply and patiently to each other so that understanding on all sides may grow," he said.

In a sermon to the congregation, Dr John said: "This is where God wants and intends me to be, and there is nowhere else I would rather be. I hope we can get on now with what really matters."

The cleric, who in the past has advocated a possible church blessing for same-sex couples, vowed during the ceremony to use "only the forms of service which are authorised or allowed by canon".

Protests and resignations

The service included a specially composed anthem, Emmanuel, by the organist and master of music at York Minster, Philip Moore.

Philip Lovegrove, chairman of St Albans diocesan board of finance, resigned his post along with that of the position of honorary lay canon at the cathedral, in protest at the appointment.

Two parishes in the diocese - St Peter and St Paul's Church in Cranfield, near Bedford, and Holy Trinity Church, in New Barnet, north London - have pledged to withhold money from diocese funds in protest.

Inclusivechurch, the pro-gay rights group within the Church of England, said it welcomed Dr John's appointment.

Wider impact

The appointment has had an impact around the world and bishop Dr Cyril Okarocha from Nigeria spoke for the Anglican Church in Africa which opposes the appointment of openly homosexual clergy.

He said: "The Archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of England have not got the message or are they going to let the Anglican Church disintegrate during their time?

"I hope this is not a step to compensate or apologise to Dr John over the Bishop of Reading appointment.

Dr John was previously Canon Chancellor and Bishop's Adviser for Ministry in the Diocese of Southwark since 1997.

He now becomes Rector of the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Albans as well as dean.

The BBC's Robert Pigott
"Canon John, who has a long-term male partner, says he's now celibate"

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26 Jul 03 |  Berkshire


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