Will Durham have Britain’s first gay bishop?

Should sexuality be an issue in the church? Have your say.

In November we found out that Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, is to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury, but will he be replaced by a gay cleric?

Jeffrey John, Britain’s most senior openly gay cleric, has been put forward to become the next Bishop of Durham.

Currently Dean of St Albans, Jeffrey John was forced to step down from his position as Bishop of Reading in 2003 amid protests. In 2010 he was also rejected as the candidate for Bishop of Southwark.

Dean John, pictured outside St Albans Cathedral

But Dean John has been tipped for promotion after the Church of England ruled homosexual men in civil partnerships as able to become bishops as long as they remain celibate.

The new rules, just weeks after a decision to ban women bishops, mean that Dean John is a possible replacement for Justin Welby. Last Thursday the Bishop of Norwich released a statement on behalf of the Church saying it would be ‘unjust’ to exclude gay men from such posts if they were ‘living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality’. 

A priest and campaigner for lesbian and gay inclusion in the church, Giles Fraser, has backed him for the job. He said: “Jeffrey John would be the perfect person to be Bishop of Durham because he has all the right skills.”

Dean John became civil partners with a Church of England hospital chaplain in 2006 after 40 years together. He has always maintained that he is celibate.

Director of Changing Attitude, Rev Colin Coward, said: “It is hard to imagine that any gay priest in a civil partnership would want to be a bishop given the intense scrutiny there would be about their sexual activity.

“Jeffrey John, whose name is being mentioned for the Bishop of Durham position, has already been through the process before and he has overcome that, so I think it is likely his name will be put forward.”

Justin is still Bishop of Durham until the legal process of his election to Archbishop of Canterbury is confirmed in early February. It is expected that his replacement will not be announced until summer at the earliest.

Worshipers at Durham Cathedral on Sunday gave mixed reactions when they heard the news.

Bill Lumsden, 59, from Hawthorn, County Durham, said: “It is private and why should it matter as long as he can do the job right?”

While Sharon Keedy, 47, from South Shields, said: “It goes against all of my traditional values. I would not oppose it, but I do not think it is quite right.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Durham said: “Justin is still Bishop of Durham until the legal process of his election to Archbishop of Canterbury is confirmed in early February.

Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, who is to become Archbishop of Canterbury this year

“The process for the nomination of a new Bishop of Durham is called the ‘vacancy in see’ and starts in the diocese and requires The Crown Nominations Commission to meet on two occasions per Vacancy in See to nominate candidates for diocesan bishoprics to the Crown.

“We are only at the very start of that process, and any decision is a way off yet.”

What do you think? Vote now.



Like The Tab on facebook

Follow us on Twitter