LBGT Anglicans and their allies across the the theological spectrum are calling for a review of the appointments system for Church of England bishops and an inquiry into leaks concerning the Southwark post, which is currently under consideration.
The LGBT Anglican Coalition - which consists of Accepting Evangelicals, Changing Attitude, the Clergy Consultation, Courage, the Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians, Inclusive Church, LGCM and Sibyls - is concerned about the treatment of Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, whose candidature was apparently revealed in order to thwart his chances of being appointed bishop of Southwark.
The Coalition deplores the fact that "[b]oth recent meetings of the Crown Nominations Commission to choose a new bishop for the Diocese of Southwark have been the subject of serious leaks to a newspaper. This has resulted in huge personal pain and distress for Dr John, for the second time in seven years. It is particularly outrageous that some senior church officials have suggested the leaks were engineered by supporters of Dr John, rather than by those opposed to his nomination."
The alliance of Anglican organisations, which includes three evangelical groups, says: "[This] has brought the Church of England into even further disrepute with the general public, who will regard it, rightly or wrongly, as another example of the blatant homophobia that exists in the Church.
"Once again the Church has failed to act with courage. The whole Commission must be held responsible for this, regardless of whether the source of the leak was an elected member, an ex-officio member, or one of the staff in attendance at what is supposed to be a totally confidential meeting.
"It is essential that a thorough independent enquiry be held immediately to determine who was responsible. There should also be an urgent review of the process of appointing bishops, as the present arrangements are not fit for purpose, and an open and transparent procedure is clearly necessary."
Meanwhile, the Rt Rev Nick Baines, area bishop of Croydon within the Diocese of Southwark , has attacked media coverage of the events as ill-informed and sensationalist. He says stories about Jeffrey John's nomination as bishop of Southwark are "mischief-making based on ignorance."
The bishop's article for the Guardian says that it is impossible to know what factors and persons were discussed within the process, but has been entitled "Jeffrey John was not the favourite." Respondents on the Thinking Anglicans website (http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/), which is covering the current C of E General Synod in York in depth, have suggested that lack of transparency in the Church's episcopal appointments process is the key issue.
Two newspaper correspondents have claimed that "it is understood that five of the six diocesan representatatives on the 16-person commission voted for [Dr John]."
Meanwhile, the Telegraph journalist who broke the story, Jonathan Wynne-Jones, described as "the scourge of church and state" at the Britsh Press Awards for 2009, has dismissed the accusation that he was mischief-making, and his accuser, as "bonkers". He says the affair has left all sides of the argument about sexuality within the Church of England in a "mess".
The LGBT Coalition members are located on the web at:
Accepting Evangelicals - www.acceptingevangelicals.org
Changing Attitude - www.changingattitude.org.uk
The Clergy Consultation - www.clergyconsultation.org
Courage - www.courage.org.uk
The Evangelical Fellowship for Lesbian and Gay Christians - www.eflgc.org.uk
Inclusive Church - www.inclusivechurch2.net
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement - www.lgcm.org.uk
The Sibyls - www.sibyls.co.uk
Ekklesia is a signatory of both the Accepting Evangelicals and Inclusive Church declarations, affirming the place of lesbian and gay Christians in the work and ministry of the church on biblical and traditional grounds.
See also: 'Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change', edited by Simon Barrow, with a preface by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Shoving Leopard, 2008) - http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/content/fear-or-freedom-why-warring-church-m...