A confidential meeting, chaired by Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has approved Dr Jeffrey John, the Dean of St Albans, to be on the shortlist to be the next Bishop of Southwark. He is understood to be the favoured candidate. Dr John is a hugely divisive figure in the church after he was forced to stand down from becoming the Bishop of Reading in 2003 after it emerged he was in a homosexual, but celibate, relationship.
Promoting him to one of the most senior offices in the Church would trigger a civil war between liberals and conservatives and exacerbate existing divisions within the Anglican Communion. Members of the Crown Nominations Commission, the body responsible for selecting bishops, will vote this week on whether Dr John's name should now be put forward to the Prime Minister for final approval.Jonathan Wynne-Jones points out that:
Senior bishops led the opposition to his appointment in 2003, while African archbishops claimed that it would tear apart the Anglican Communion if an openly gay cleric was made bishop in the Church of England, considered to be the mother church.He claims, "This could shatter Dr Williams' hopes of maintaining the fragile unity which currently exists in the Church." If it does, Dr Williams will have done so knowingly and willingly and therefore culpably.
The Communion has already begun to unravel following the appointment of openly gay and openly lesbian bishops in the US Episcopal Church.
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