Clergy rebel over appointment of gay bishop

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The Independent Online

The Bishop of Oxford today faced a rebellion from his own clergy over his appointment of a gay man as the new Bishop of Reading.

A group of 80 clergy and 20 leading laity from the Diocese of Oxford said they were seeking a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury to plead with him to intervene to stop the appointment taking place.

If it went ahead, they would regard the leadership of the Diocese as "separating themselves" from the Church of England, Dr Philip Giddings, a lay minister speaking on behalf of opponents of the appointment told reporters at a news conference at Church House in Oxford.

However, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Rev Richard Harries responded immediately by saying he stood by his choice of Cannon Jeffrey John for the Reading post.

Dr Giddings, a licensed lay minister at Greyfriars Church, Reading, said the

Evangelical Clergy, including the leaders of most of the largest churches in the diocese, had written privately to the Bishop of Oxford to express their "dismay" over the appointment.

He said: "Our representatives have met twice with the Bishop of Oxford.

"We have pleaded with him to do all in his power to intervene so that the appointment does not take place," he said.

"We are now seeking a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury to express the same plea."

He said they oppose the nomination because it went against the "plain meaning of scripture", 2,000 years of Christian tradition and the "divinely created order and gift of marriage".

He added: "Perhaps, above all, we feel that disappointment will be catastrophic in terms of the unity of the church – not only the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, which it threatens to split asunder, but also between the Anglican Church and other churches worldwide."

Dr Giddings then warned: "For these reasons, we believe that if this appointment proceeds, the Bishop of Oxford and by implication the leadership of the Diocese of Oxford will be separating themselves from the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

"This will have grave structural, pastoral and financial implications, as well as provoking discussions about appropriate oversight in the future if this plan proceeds.

"The gravest consequence will be to the Anglican Church's witness to the name of Christ in our land.

"May God have mercy on us all and give those in authority Godly wisdom at this time."

His words came after Dr John issued a lengthy, written statement in which he said he wanted to alleviate the "dismay" over his appointment.

He said his now–celibate relationship with another man was a "gift" from God and would continue but he pledged not to be a "maverick".