Williams agreed to appoint gay bishop

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The Independent Online

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, twice verbally approved the appointment of the gay cleric Dr Jeffrey John as bishop of Reading, it was revealed last night.

Dr Williams told the Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, twice by telephone that he was prepared to appoint Dr John.

The disclosure comes a year after Dr John was forced to stand down from his post of suffragan bishop because of a wave of protest from Anglican dioceses around the world.

A spokesman for Lambeth palace said last night the church had "always made clear" the involvement of Dr Williams in the appointment followed "normal process in the appointment of a suffragan bishop".

Dr Williams' approval has been recorded in a book by Stephen Bates, The Guardian's religious affairs correspondent.

Dr Williams said forcing Dr John to step down was a "very hard decision to take". He said he wrongly believed "the diocese was more behind the appointment than seemed to be the case" when sanctioning it.