Theologian appointed Bishop of Reading
The Canon Theologian of Southwark Cathedral was yesterday named by Downing Street as the new Suffragan Bishop of Reading.
The appointment of Jeffrey John will dismay traditonalists and those at the Conservative end of Evangelicalism as he is one of the Church of England's most prominent advocates of gay rights.
He has called for the ordination of practising homosexuals and the blessing of gay relationships.
His elevation is expected to give fresh impetus to the Church's gay rights movement and reflects the new mood since Dr Rowan Williams, who has admitted ordaining a practising homosexual, became Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr John, a former Dean of Magdalen College, Oxford, has said: "I don't think there is any alternative to the bishops demanding discretion to ordain whoever they think fit."
"Probably more than half of them have been ordaining and supporting positively gay clergy for years."
His appointment was made by the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries, who heads the House of Bishops' working party on sexuality.
An Oxford diocese spokesman said Dr John would abide by the House of Bishops' 1991 report Issues in Human Sexuality.
This document argued that homosexual practice was unacceptable among clergy, though it might sometimes be condoned among the laity.
The Rev Rod Thomas, a spokesman for Reform, the conservative evangelical interest group, said: "This appointment will cause shock to many evangelicals."
"It will make them worry even more about the Archbishop of Canterbury's own position, and reinforce their desire only to accept biblical ministry in their churches rather than the liberal opinions of some bishops."