John to be a nominee in Bangor

There are reports in the British media that the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans, will be a nominee for Bishop of Bangor in the Church of Wales.

The Telegraph says:

The Very Rev Jeffrey John was appointed Bishop of Reading five years ago but was forced to stand down by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a personal friend of his, after the election sparked outrage among conservatives.

He was later made the Dean of St Albans but is now being considered for the post of Bishop of Bangor in North Wales, following the death of the previous incumbent from cancer in June.

Insiders believe 55-year-old Dr John is highly likely to be chosen, because he is a Welsh speaker as well as being a respected theologian.

In addition, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, recently admitted he would support the election of a gay bishop despite opposition among orthodox Anglicans and guidelines stating that practising homosexuals should not become clergy.

Ruth Gledhill at the Times wrote:

The gay cleric whose abortive appointment as Bishop of Reading came close to splitting the Church of England could soon become Britian’s first openly gay diocesan bishop.

Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, who two years ago celebrated a civil partnership ceremony with another priest, is to be nominated as Bishop of Bangor in north Wales.

Liberals welcomed the news but conservatives gave warning that it would exacerbate further the tensions over sexuality threatening to rend the Anglican Communion in two.

Several candidates are likely to be nominated for the post but Dr John has the support of senior figures in the Church in Wales, according to informed sources. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury whose authority does not extend beyond England, would have no power to prevent such an appointment.

The Church in Wales is no longer part of the established Anglican Church in Britain and has a long tradition of liberal catholicism.

In addition, the Church in Wales prefers its senior clergy to be Welsh-speakers, a rare attribute that Dr John possesses. Of the six dioceses, Bangor is vacant and St Asaph is to become vacant soon when the present incumbent retires. The Dean of St David’s, the Very Reverend John Wyn Evans, was elected the new Bishop of St David’s yesterday.

As at St David’s, the main requirement in Bangor and St Asaph is that the new bishops be good pastors. Dr John meets this and is also a noted theologian. He has proved himself a success at St Albans, where the congregation has thrived under his leadership and where many would be loath to see him go….

Dr Morgan will take initial soundings when members of the college for Bangor meet for preliminary discussions next week. The formal election will take place in October, at a highly-secret three-day lock-in at Bangor’s historic cathedral.

There are more than 40 members of the college, including six from each diocese and 12 from Bangor. Each member can nominate as many candidates as they wish. Dr John will not be formally nominated until the members are closeted behind the locked doors of the cathedral. The nominations are confidential.

He would then only become bishop if a two-thirds majority of the college agreed. If elected, he would have 28 days to accept or decline the offer before the appointment was confirmed by a specially-convened Sacred Synod.

In spite of the liberal majority in Bangor, the conservative-liberal break-down of the electoral college means the final outcome will be close. Dr John was put forward to be Bishop of Monmouth four years ago but did not secure enough votes for a two-thirds majority.

Gledhill says

A senior source close to the election told The Times: “One member of the college is going to put Jeffrey John’s name forward. It will be a very close thing.”

Another Church in Wales insider said: “I have heard Jeffrey John’s name mentioned in connection with episcopal elections in Wales. He is Welsh and a Welsh speaker. He has a good pastoral record. He might well be considered.”

Expect strenuous opposition from Anglican Mainstream and other groups. The first hint of both the nomination and the opposition came from a letter written to the American Anglican Council and CANA written by AAC Bishop David Anderson. According to George Conger in Religious Intelligence:

In an Aug 29 letter to members of the American Anglican Council (AAC) and CANA, the Rt Rev David Anderson said the Church in Wales would likely be the first province to break the Lambeth moratorium on gay bishops. “Wales is in an election process for Bishop of Bangor and the election has as one of its still-secret nominees none other than Jeffrey John,” Bishop Anderson said.

Citing “reliable sources” Bishop Anderson said: “Dr Barry Morgan is a man of his word – he previously has said, ‘I [Barry Morgan] would ordain Britain’s first gay Bishop’.”

Last month Dr Morgan told the Sunday Telegraph he would support the election of a gay bishop in Wales. “If a priest had a [same-sex] partner and someone nominated them that wouldn’t be a bar to them becoming a bishop,” he said in an interview published on July 13.

Gledhill reports that

The Vicar of St Mary’s Putney, the Rev Giles Fraser, a friend of Dr John and founder of the Inclusive Church lobby that champions the gay cause, said: “Jeffrey John would make an absolutely splendid bishop. This is not before time. This is a man who does not contravene the guidelines on human sexuality at all.”

But in a joint statement, Canon Chris Sugden and Philip Giddings of Anglican Mainstream, the conservative lobby set up in response to Dr John’s appointment to Reading, said: “If he is being nominated to a Welsh episcopate, the obstacles remain the same as to his previous candidacies for senior appointments.”

Conger reports that Anderson of AAC says that the Archbishop of Canterbury “will not get a pass on this” even though the ABC has no authority in Wales and that the elections process has not even begun.

The Guardian also has the story. Riazat Butt writes: “The clergy of Bangor and bishops of Wales are due to meet next Wednesday to discuss the vacant role. The election of the next bishop will take place on October 10.” (Note that the headline is inconsistent with the content of the article.)

Thinking Anglicans has more links here.

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