Church 'must ordain' gay priests

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The Independent Online
The Church of England will have to ordain gay priests openly, according to a newly influential Synod politician.

The Rev Dr Jeffrey John, a former Dean of Magdalen College, Oxford, was elected to the Church of England's General Synod at his first attempt last autumn, and has now been elected to the Synod's Standing Committee, which functions as a sort of cabinet.

"I don't think there is any alternative to the bishops' demanding discretion to ordain whoever they think fit," he said yesterday. "Probably more than half of them have been ordaining and supporting positively gay clergy for years."

In 1991, the House of Bishops issued a report claiming that homosexual practice was unacceptable among the clergy, though it might sometimes be condoned among the laity.

While Dean of Magdalen, Dr John wrote a pamphlet urging the church to recognise stable monogamous relationships among gay clergy. He was elected to the Synod as a clergy representative for Southwark, which covers London south of the Thames. The Diocese of London, north of the river, has the highest concentration of gay clergy in the country, but the gay subculture there is also tangled up with bitter Anglo-Catholic resistance to the ordination of women.

The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Rev Roy Williamson, was last year expelled from an evangelical organisation, the Church Pastoral Aid Society, after he praised his gay clergy in a radio interview. Dr John represents a group known as "Affirming Catholicism", which he describes as "Basically middle- of-the-road Catholics in favour of the ordination of women."

There is no love lost between his group and the traditionalist Anglo- Catholics, organised by Forward in Faith. Members of each accuse the other, off the record, of being homosexual front organisations.

Homosexuality is now the main battleground between traditionalists and liberals. The Lesbian and Gay Christian movement is planning a Synod debate on the subject, while next month, Walter Righter, a retired Anglican bishop, will be tried for heresy before a church court in the United States, after he knowingly ordained a gay man in New Jersey.