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Last Updated: Friday, 20 June, 2003, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Bishops protest over gay colleague
Canon Jeffrey John
Jeffrey John says his 27-year relationship is now sexless
A gay bishop from Wales is facing a new attempt by conservatives and evangelicals to block his promotion to a senior church role.

Nine bishops have written an open letter condemning the appointment to Bishop of Reading of Canon Jeffrey John, who is originally from Tonyrefail, near Pontypridd.

They are meeting the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, to try to change his decision.

Dr John has described as a "gift from God" his relationship with another man, but said the partnership had not been sexual for some time.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt, is one of the signatories to the protest letter.

He said: "I'm expressing a profound concern to my colleagues that this appointment has been made because of the messages it sends.

"There is a basic position about Christian sexual behaviour which is for marriage."

The Anglican church is divided over Dr John's appointment

Dr John posted a lengthy statement on the Diocese of Oxford website just before his opponents met to try and reverse his appointment.

Although he says his 27-year relationship is now celibate, those opposed to his appointment are angry that he has failed to express regret.

He said he respected those who opposed him, but wanted to alleviate their concerns.

"My own view is that there is a sound argument from scripture and tradition in favour of Christians accepting same-sex relationships, provided they are based on a personal covenant of lifelong faithfulness," he said.

"I would not term such a relationship a 'marriage', but I believe it could be understood as a legitimate covenanted relationship."

Bishop John also tried to explain how his personal view would reconcile with his role in upholding Church teaching, and denied it was a dishonourable position.

The Bishop of Oxford
The Bishop of Oxford is responsible for Dr John's appointment

The Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries seemed unlikely to be swayed by the delegation.

Before the meeing, he said: "Jeffrey John has a lot of gifts for the Reading area, he is the right man for the job and his lifestyle and his views conform with the present policy of the Church of England. "

Derek Rawcliffe, who became the first Anglican bishop to admit being gay eight years ago, said the same fuss was made over the ordination of women priests 10 years ago.

On Thursday, Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of the 17.5 million strong Anglican church in Nigeria, threatened to split from the Church over the appointment.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has not commented on the appointment.

The BBC's Robert Pigott
"This dispute has become very public and is becoming steadily more bitter"

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