So, Jeffrey John is potentially going to become Bishop of Southwark. The news saddens me - but before I am accused of being homophobic, let me say that Dr John’s sexuality is not the real reason I am upset. In fact, I have three big concerns about this latest news.
1) Much is being made about David Cameron being in favour of Dr John’s appointment, with reports suggesting that “it will be good for the image of the Conservative Party.” As far as I know, our Prime Minister is not a church-goer, but even if he was, it doesn’t seem right that he is able to choose a church leader for political gain. Paul’s 1st letter to Timothy contains some good points about choosing a church leader, and someone who “improves the image of the Prime Minister” is not one of them.
2) Some time ago, I was privileged to be in a group invited by Dr John to drinks at his house in St Albans. I’d been looking forward to meeting him, and was determined to try and put my prejudices aside. He had been described to me as a “great candidate for a Bishop” and someone who was “humble and people-orientated.” Perhaps he was having an off-day, but when I started a conversation by complementing his house the rather grumpy response was “I’d rather live in a Bishop’s house” and as he bumbled through some small talk which included unnecessary sneers about Bath Abbey being “Evangelical” he didn’t endear himself to me.
Of course, one must accept that he’d had a tough time, and that it’s natural to feel bitter. But I’m afraid that I saw a man who is a career churchman, with his own agenda.
3) The liberal wing of the church has the Henry Ford attitude to tolerance. We can have any view we like, apparently, so long as it’s theirs. It seems that for some people, their idea of holding together the Anglican Communion involves being prepared to welcome others back with open arms once they have changed their mind.
The issue of homosexuality and church leadership is a divisive one, but whatever side of the fence you are on, it doesn’t seem right that the liberal agenda is being pushed through in spite of clear agreements not to ordain gay bishops for the time being.