Evangelicals to lobby against appointment of bishop
A delegation of evangelicals from the diocese of Oxford is to meet the bishop, Richard Harries, to try to force the rescinding of the appointment of the first openly gay bishop in the Church of England.
The row over the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as suffragan bishop of Reading comes as Episcopalians in New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the US, at the weekend, and follows the first authorised blessing service for a gay couple in the Canadian diocese of New Westminster a fortnight ago.
The Church of England revolt over Jeffreyís appointment widened at the weekend when a leading mainstream evangelical joined calls for him to step down.
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Peter Broadbent, said that Dr Jeffrey John's ìliberalî views undermined the teaching of the Church and he should withdraw as the new Bishop of Reading.
African and West Indian church leaders have threatened to split the church if the appointments are not withdrawn.
Peter Akinola, the primate of Nigeria, the largest single church within the 70 million-strong Anglican communion, last week said the appointment would increase divisions and called on Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to withdraw it.
The appointment is an early challenge to the archbishop, who is sympathetic to the position of gay members of the church but has said he will uphold the church's position and criticised the Canadian blessing. Dr John, who has admitted to having been in a 20-year relationship, has told the Bishop of Oxford he has been "sexually abstinent for a considerable time". He will also uphold the church's position.
Bishop Harries told his diocesan synod at the weekend there was "cruel homophobia" within the church and that he had decided to appoint the canon because he had the appropriate qualifications.
"I was faced with a clear issue of principle. Jeffrey, I judged, has the gifts for the job."