A small group of clergy have attacked the Dean of Southwark for his decision to invite the Presiding Bishop of the US Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, to preach at Southwark Cathedral last month. They object to her stance on sexuality.
Jefferts Schori has faced criticism for backing the consecration of two gay bishops.
The Dean, Colin Slee, said at the time that he hoped that the Cathedral, which is part of the Church of England, “will walk the same path as the Episcopal Church [of the USA]”.
Both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church are part of the international Anglican Communion, which is facing severe divisions over sexuality.
But despite vocal criticisms from some, only nine clergy in Southwark diocese signed an open letter criticising Slee.
Published in this week's issue of the Church Times, it describes Slee's invitation to Jefferts Schori as “provocative and damaging”. The nine clergy accuse Slee of “pushing his own political agenda”. They say that they “distance themselves from Southwark Cathedral and express a lack of confidence in its leadership”.
Southwark is regarded as one of the dioceses most committed to the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the church. The signatories are therefore likely to be out of step with the majority view amongst clergy in the area.
Responding to Slee's insistence that the invitation was motivated partly by a desire to give a picture of worldwide Anglicanism, the signatories say they "challenge him to invite the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Archbishop of Uganda or the Archbishop of Sydney to preach at Southwark Cathedral”.
It is not clear whether this remark is intended only to highlight inconsistency or if it is a serious call for one of these three men – all strong opponents of LGBT inclusion - to be invited.
The Diocese of Southwark hit the headlines earlier this month due to a leak suggesting that Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, was being considered as Southwark's new bishop. John is gay and partnered, but despite his being celibate, certain groups immediately attacked his possible appointment. It has since been confirmed that his name is not on the shortlist.
The letter from the nine clergy calls for a bishop who will “lead the diocese back to the biblical, historic and eternal Gospel and its values”.
Speaking in New Zealand, Jefferts Schori said that some of the opposition to LGBT inclusion “represents the pain and discomfort of people who used to be at the centre and who are now finding themselves being moved to the margins”.