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Dr Jeffrey John is a man of integrity

It is a sign of the theological incoherence of Anglicanism that he will not be appointed to Southwark

By on Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Dr Jeffrey John was a candidate to become the next Bishop of Southwark (PA photo)

Dr Jeffrey John was a candidate to become the next Bishop of Southwark (PA photo)

The C of E has done it again. “An openly homosexual cleric has been nominated to become a senior bishop, in a move that threatens to provoke a damaging split in the Church of England,” reported the Telegraph on Sunday. Dr Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, was the leading candidate to become Bishop of Southwark. No longer; after considerable dithering, the Crown Appointments commission has caved in: Dr John is not to have Southwark.

Now, one is tempted to see this story as yet another example of a consistent Anglican incapacity to think theologically. The point about Dr John is that he is “celibate”: and by that he means that he and his long-term partner are chaste, that they abstain from any kind of sexual act. In other words, his behaviour is entirely consistent with article 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which teaches that “Homosexual persons are called to chastity” and that “By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom… they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

In other words, his behaviour is an example of chastity for other homosexuals to follow, not an encouragement to clerical promiscuity. Dr John is a man of integrity: as it happens, I was trained for the Anglican priesthood with him and speak from personal knowledge; when he was chaplain of Brasenose College, Oxford, I even preached from his pulpit and would have done so again when he moved to Magdalen had my reception into the Catholic Church not supervened.

Dr John’s appointment to Southwark will not now take place: and the C of E has not even escaped being “split from top to bottom” by his non-appointment: the fact is that Anglicanism is intrinsically divided by its theological incoherence, but now there is an increasingly unpleasant edge to its divisions. Not that English Catholics have any right to feel superior over this issue, so long as the Soho Masses continue with the full consent of the bishops of the Westminster diocese. But that is another story, for which, watch this space.

  • http://twitter.com/Christomicro Christopher Wright

    You are of course right.

    Please give an update about Soho Masses. I thought (and hoped) they had gone away.

    Went to one one by mistake when I worked in London. Male Lector in crop-top and hot pants. So naif I thought it was the weather, until a friend explained.

  • http://twitter.com/Christomicro Christopher Wright

    You are of course right.

    Please give an update about Soho Masses. I thought (and hoped) they had gone away.

    Went to one one by mistake when I worked in London. Male Lector in crop-top and hot pants. So naif I thought it was the weather, until a friend explained.

  • http://michaeltmerrick.wordpress.com/ Michael

    I think it's worth noting that not everyone has taken the approach you deride, and on John Richardson's blog at any rate the matter has been thought through along the same lines you suggest – rather, it seems that the objection has more to do with his teachings than his own personal chastity (teachings which, Richardson admits, are not unique on to Jeffery John). I confess I don't know even nearly enough about this whole scenario to speak with any sort of authority, and the whole debate often becomes so nuanced that it is hard to keep up, but *if* the objection for some is that Dr John has in the past suggested non-celibate homosexual relationships should be seen as acceptable, then one can at least see why Dr John's personal chastity isn't really enough to quell that objection to his nomination.

  • London Vicar

    The issue is not of Jeffrey John's current relationship.

    It is more his positioning.
    1) He has not stated that his previous behaviour was wrong.
    2) He continues to promote that gay relationships are fine – he has not reneged on his previous book.
    3) He is a rallying point for revisionists in the Church of England.
    4) The Diocese of Southwark would likely go bankrupt if he [or someone of similar views] were appointed: the major orthodox churches would go elsewhere for oversight and take their money with them.

    Please don't be so naive, Bill Oddie!

  • A concerned priest

    Jeffrey John has written on the subject of promoting gay 'marriage':

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Permanent-Faithful-Stab

  • Julian

    A fantastic opportunity awaits for the conservative evangelical to demonstrate how to be loving to those that dare challenge them and challenge their thinking.It would only be fair for the 'heterosexual' Bishop,Christian,Pastor to also give a clear account to their elders and management of their own sexual activity that may or may not be in line with Christ's teaching.I presume many do not wish to have any GAY ministers in office.If this was indeed the case, I wonder who would be picked on next?

    Clean up your own act before picking fault in 'others'.

    In answer to the London vicar…….
    1) Maybe that's between him and GOD?

    2) Are vicars struggling in marriage with temptations and desires as open?

    3)

    4) Let God take care of the money.The churches and mainstream seem to be caught up with triumphalism and wordly title money and positioning.Christ mentions this also in the bible.

  • Lover of C of E

    It is interesting to observe across the pond what liberal theology have done to The Episcopal Church in the last 10-20 years. The numbers attending that church have been decimated. It will not be long before the new orthodox Anglican denominations eclipse the original, in some Dioceses.

    For any who love the Church of England, for people to say 'let it split the church', actually spells the end of the CofE as we know it.

    It is the orthodox churches that produce converts, and with them, sacrificial giving, that increasingly funds the whole enterprise.

    It was Martin Luther who said 'in a corrupt church, money talks'.

  • Petrus

    the Soho Masses Pastoral Council set-up is being flagrantly used to promote anti-Catholic, pro-homosexual propaganda, and people are completely mystified as to why this scandal continues.
    When the Soho Masses first started at Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, the Westminster Archdiocese put out a statement, which contained the sentence:- “Information about the Mass will be sensitive to the reality that the celebration of Mass is not to be used for campaigning for any change to, or ambiguity about, the Church’s teaching.” But evidence proves that the complete opposite is happening, as the Soho Masses Pastoral Council are continually undermining and opposing Catholic teaching on homosexuality, by abuses at the Masses (such as naming and praying for those who have contracted civil partnerships), by the dissent-filled newsletter given out at the Mass, by their website http://www.sohomasses.com and by e-mails sent out by the Soho Masses Pastoral Council promoting dissenting initiatives.

    These Masses, and the information and events surrounding them, have become a by-word for dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality. The Soho Masses Pastoral Council has just elected its new committee and an e-mail was sent out to announce the members’ names. Among those elected are Terry Weldon, who runs several blogs which openly dissent from Catholic teaching on homosexuality:- http://queering-the-church.com/blog ; Rose Taw who was a trustee and committee member of ‘ShOUT! The South London LGBT youth group’ (which is an affiliate member of the ‘Queer Youth Network’ – a group whose aims cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching:- http://www.queeryouth.org.uk), and Michael Jenkins, who works for the anti-Catholic homosexual political group ‘Stonewall’ http://www.stonewall.org.uk Clearly, no homosexual person who fully and unequivocally supports Catholic teaching on homosexuality, would serve on this committee or attend these Masses.
    Although he is no longer listed as a member of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, the founder of these Masses, ex-priest and ‘gay’ rights campaigner Martin Pendergast, is still very much behind the running of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council, and indeed behind most of the dissenting ‘Catholic’ homosexual initiatives in England. He also recently co-founded the ‘Cutting Edge Consortium’ – a collective of secular homosexual and liberal religious groups. Among their aims are to campaign to ensure that churches are not able to obtain exemption from draconian ‘equality laws’ – laws which you know have already had a detrimental effect on the life of the Church in this country. The full list of aims of the Cutting Edge Consortium and details of member groups can be found here:- http://sites.google.com/site/cuttingedgeconsort
    Martin Pendergast used the Soho Masses Pastoral Council mailing list to send out information about a London Cutting Edge Consortium meeting on the 17th May, to mark ‘Idaho Day’ Further information on the Idaho Day movement can be found here:- http://www.dayagainsthomophobia.org/spip.php?article118 One of those listed to speak at this event was Terry Weldon, who is on the Soho Masses Pastoral Council and who organises the Eucharistic Ministers for these Masses. The Cutting Edge Consortium also shares the same contact address as the Soho Masses Pastoral Council – P.O. Box 24632, London, E9 6XF. This is a postal box address used by Martin Pendergast for several of his dissenting initiatives and groups Just to clarify the situation, all the groups mentioned above identify Catholic belief on homosexual activity as ‘homophobia’.
    As you know, the dissenting homosexual group Rainbow Sash Movement announced that it was holding a protest at Westminster Cathedral on Pentecost Sunday. This group seeks to disrupt Masses and uses the Mass as a platform for protest (see http://www.rainbowsashmovement.com/England/West… or appendix 5). The Soho Masses Pastoral Council promotes the Rainbow Sash Movement by including the Rainbow Sash website address in each of its newsletters, which are given out at the Soho Masses (see appendix 4). Also, Terry (Terence) Weldon of the Soho Masses Pastoral Council defended the Rainbow Sash Movement in a comment he made on a blog:- http://the-hermeneutic-of-continuity.blogspot.c… when he stated:- “ . . . I started out by sharing your view that the Sash movement is not helping: the idea of introducing protest to the Mass is immediately offensive. The problem is, when the church makes no provision for people to speak up within approved structures on matters of vital importance, what else are gay Catholics to do?”. Clearly, Weldon’s assertion that ‘no provision’ is made for ‘gay’ Catholics – despite the Westminster Archdiocese permitting the Soho Masses – is an indication of his belief, often expressed on his various blogs – that ‘equality’ will not be achieved until the Church completely abandons its teaching on homosexuality.
    Once again, it is fervently to be hoped that this scandalous and long-running situation can be looked at afresh by those in authority, and that these Masses can be re-formatted and placed under the aegis of those who fully and unequivocally accept Catholic moral teaching.

  • A Christian

    Someone put the DIocese of Southwark on suicide watch please……………!

  • Still learning

    What do you mean, suicide watch?

  • A Christian

    If you split the Diocese (and its money), you are on the road to your own ruin, surely?

    What do others think?

  • Dwiz1

    How do you get from “openly gay, partnered” to “celebate”=chaste?
    What a crock of crap

  • Free Christian Thinker

    Agreed. But not v PC to say so these days.
    Have the thought police not visited you yet?

  • W Oddie

    I am not Bill Oddie, for heavens' sake : my name is William. I am not a bearded Ornithologist but a Catholic writer who knows nothing about birds except that they go tweet tweet. And I may be naif (not naive, I am not a female). And I do not care what happens to the C of E: all I know is that whatever he has said is perfectly consistent with what Anglicans are allowed to believe (I don't believe it, that's why I became a Catholic). I know too that the issue as presented by the self righteous narrow gutted Evangelicals who are quite happy to be members of a church which allows such beliefs but won't have a 'bishop' whose personal behaviour is beyond reproach.
    William Oddie

  • W Oddie

    Sorry, that last sentence is incomplete: it continues … ', is not about what he believes, but what he IS. And as a Catholic, I must believe that being a homosexual is not in itself sinful. It's what he or she DOES. Those who object to Jeffrey John as Bishop of Southwark believe that what he IS sinful. And that's theologically incoherent. I think that Evangelicals should leave the C of E. But as long a s they are Anglicans they have to accept that anything goes. God help them all.
    William Oddie

  • W Oddie

    Oh dear. You can be openly homosexual by nature but not sexually active, DUM DUM. As for being 'partnered', the word partner implies nothing whatever about a sexual relationship, which in this case does not exist. But anyone who uses the expression 'crock of crap' is illiterate or worse, and their opinion does not count.
    William Oddie

  • An Anglican

    Anglicans are supposed to believe and live by Scripture. That is in their formularies and ordinal. I am not quite sure why you criticize evangelicals: they believe Scripture and want to live by it and want their leaders to live by it. Why is that self-righteous? Surely that IS consistent and is godly!

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/KQFF4YUONMJ6UC3ZZ33FJNVHDY Billy

    When up for the post of bishop last time, Mr. John asserted that he and his partner did not live together. This was shown to be a lie when it was shown that they had bought and lived in a flat together. This was one of the problems that sunk his candidacy on the last effort.

    Most people think that “integrity” means that one doesn't lie. The author of this sad piece apparently doesn't understand this.

  • David Lindsay

    That Dr John can be celibate in a civil partnership is because civil partnerships already do not need to be consummated. There has never been any such need. So what have they to do with homosexuality, as such, really? Yet the legislation fails to provide for unmarried close relatives. That is proof, as if proof were needed, that the point of this measure is to privilege homosexuality on the specious basis that it is an identity comparable to ethnicity or class, or even to sex, which is written into every cell of the body.

    The legislation must be amended immediately to allow unmarried relatives, whether of the same or of opposite sexes, to register their partnerships. Then there would be no problem. If it had said that at the time of its enactment, then there would never have been anything more than a few newspaper stories about how same-sex couples were “planning to make use of a new law to protect elderly unmarried relatives living together from inheritance tax when one of them dies”. So why wasn't it set up like that? See above, I'm afraid.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/LMH7GXHN6AB52C7IYJGXTGQCZY Will

    The point of civil partnerships is NOT “to privilege homosexuality on the specious basis that it is an identity comparable to ethnicity or class, or even to sex”. It is to give legal recognition to committed gay relationships. Simple really.

  • David Lindsay

    No. The re is no requirement for consummation, so it really has nothing to do with homosexuality as such. Indeed, it could not possibly have. Constitutionally.

    We may fund forced abortion in China and elsewhere, but it is impossible to overstate the constitutional crisis that would follow from any legislative attempt formally to require anyone in this country to have an abortion. We may have eroded the special character of Sunday to such an extent that many people are effectively compelled to work on it, but it is impossible to overstate the constitutional crisis that would follow from any direct attempt to write that compulsion into law, or formally to declare Sunday a normal shopping day. We may have deregulated drinking and gambling to an alarming extent, but it is impossible to overstate the constitutional crisis that would follow from any legislative attempt to abolish all restrictions on them.

    And we may long ago have come to the humane and necessary conclusion that homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were no business of the criminal law, but it is impossible to overstate the constitutional crisis that would follow from any legislative attempt to make the acquisition of certain civil privileges conditional upon engagement in such acts, or indeed in any form of sexual act other than that between husband and wife. As Leo Abse himself said on the fortieth anniversary of his Bill's becoming law, “merely because something ought not to be a criminal offence, that does not make it a public good”.

    It is a pity that, by abolishing the fault basis in divorce, we have abolished the State's, and thus the community's, expression of disapproval of adultery and desertion even though neither of them has ever been a criminal offence. And it is more than a pity that we have, for the time being, restricted civil partnerships to unrelated same-sex couples even though, with no requirement for consummation nor any constitutional possibility of such a requirement, civil partnerships do not in principle have anything to do with homosexuality.

    We have privileged subscription to the scientifically baseless and historically illiterate theory that an inclination towards homosexual acts is somehow an identity, that persons rather than only acts are homosexual or heterosexual, and that those terms are nouns as well as adjectives. That absurd notion is barely, if yet, forty years old, and it was invented in, by and for urban, coastal American subcultures that defined themselves by their sexual abuse of teenage boys. Britain's pre-eminent homosexualist organisation takes its name from a centre of such abuse.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/BAXZPF5QE7RMLTJDMGVEW46VVM Robert

    As always, william, you combine theological and moral orthodoxy with compassion and common sense. It is conduct and not nature which matters and God is frogiving of our wrong conduct when we repent. The Catholocism which you and Pope Benedict teach- which we might call Ressourcement- is what we always held.

  • Bwaj

    The Catholic Church in the Catechism and the Scriptures calls homosexuals to live chastely. It does not state two homosexual men or women may live in a same-sex partnership,even a chaste one, this is forbidden so whose Scriptures and Catechism are you reading?

  • John

    Can't speak for Anglicans, and Jeffrey John's partnership, but please see the Vatican document on same-sex unions, and how Catholics should react to such things:- http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations

  • Anonymous

    As a gay Christian I feel that Dr Jeffrey John has been treated very poorly in the 21st century where we are still coming out of the dark ages.