Gay cleric to deliver BBC Christmas sermon
Jeffrey John, the cleric at the heart of the row in the Church of England last year when he was forced to stand down from the suffragan bishopric of Reading, has been invited to preach the sermon during a BBC broadcast service over Christmas.
Dr John, who is now dean of St Albans, will be preaching during the Boxing Day morning service which will be broadcast from the cathedral on Radio 4.
With some conservative evangelicals still not reconciled to Dr John's appointment, the decision is likely to be seen as provocative by some, reports the Guardian newspaper.
The dean, appointed in the summer, has hitherto kept a low profile, refusing interviews with the local media, but the diocese says that only a handful of churches have expressed reservations about him and he has the support of the local evangelical Bishop of Bedford.
In his previous post, as canon theologian of Southwark Cathedral, Dr John had a high reputation as a preacher. He was appointed to the bishopric of Reading in the summer of 2003 with the approval of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who then forced him to stand down after the appointment stirred protests from mainly evangelical groups within the Church of England and abroad.
Dr John has admitted that he is gay and has a long-term partner but says he has been celibate - as the church demands - for many years.
Other senior clergy appearing during the BBC's Christmas schedules include James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, and Dr Williams himself.
In his Christmas message the Archbishop of Canterbury, steered clear of the rows that have dogged the Anglican communion, likening God to a "therapist".
"Christ does not save the world just by his death on the cross" Dr Rowan Williams said, "we respond to that death" and "we let ourselves be touched and changed."