Win for gay rights priests

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Priests who are prominent advocates of homosexual rights have topped the polls in the Southwark and London dioceses in elections for the Church of England's General Synod.

The Rev Malcolm Johnson became the first clergyman openly supportive of gay rights within the Church of England to be elected to the Synod's House of Clergy.

Mr Johnson issued a statement after his election to the London diocese yesterday calling on the church to put an end to what he called its "cruel homophobia". Mr Johnson runs a religious community in the East End of London. For this reason, as well as his outspoken support of gay rights, he is widely respected within the diocese.

The Rev Jeffrey John, author of a radical pamphlet calling for reforms on homosexuality and an advocate of same sex marriage, was elected in the neighbouring diocese of Southwark. A spokesman for the diocese confirmed his election but said he had no details of his campaign platform.

Other supporters of lesbian and gay christian rights elected to the synod included Brian McHenry, who gained the largest vote in Southwark and David Gerrard, Archdeadon of Wandsworth.

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement regards the poll results as a major step forward and claims that half of the clergy elected to the synod from London and Soutwark support gay rights on ordination and same-sex marriage.

n An "overwhelming majority" of Royal Navy personnel are opposed to gays being allowed in the services, the Ministry of Defence said last night.

A survey of "all ranks and ratings" showed that 90 per cent supported the continuation of the existing ban on homosexuals.