Local clergy support Bishop of Durham

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The Independent Online
THE bishop-elect of Durham, the Rt Rev Michael Turnbull, has been told that a majority of his clergy do not want him to give up office, writes Andrew Brown.

At a meeting of rural deans last Thursday, convened to represent clergy opinion in the diocese, some voices demanded the bishop's resignation for bringing scandal on the diocese after a Sunday newspaper revealed that he had been convicted of gross indecency 26 years ago in Hull.

But the majority opinion was that the new bishop should stand firm. 'Although there is a degree of sadness about the circumstances . . . if we're not about forgiveness, redemption and renewal, then we might as well pack up,' the Rural Dean of Durham, the Rev John Bell, said.

The Dean of Durham Cathedral, the Very Rev John Arnold, had been quoted over the weekend as saying that the bishop was considering resignation. However, he said yesterday that he had been misunderstood. Dr Arnold, who had known Dr Turnbull in Rochester, where the two men had also been dean and bishop, said: 'I said that . . . obviously thoughts of resignation had gone through his mind. But I haven't seen him since Thursday and I have no reason to believe that he has changed his mind since then, when he was determined not to quit.'

Though support for Dr Turnbull is steady in the House of Bishops, it is feared that the diocese of Durham, which wanted a straight- ahead evangelical, might not accept a straight-ahead evangelical convicted of gross indecency.

The diocese was a focus of controversy under the previous bishop, Dr David Jenkins, who was repeatedly urged to resign for his theological views. Some evangelicals were reported yesterday to be nostalgic for the old rows about the virgin birth. That at least, could be discussed in public.