Leading article: An establishment dilemma

Share
Related Topics

The office of a bishop is weighty in the Church. Charged with acting as a focus of unity and with upholding doctrine, the post is supposed to be prayerfully accepted rather than actively sought, which is why reports that the Dean of St Albans may sue the Church of England for discrimination over its refusal to make him a bishop will have shocked the Anglican hierarchy to its core.

If Jeffrey John is feeling impatient, that is understandable. He has, it is understood, been put forward several times for promotion only to be rejected for the same reason: he is openly gay and living with a male partner. When Dr John was nominated for the diocese of Reading in 2003, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, persuaded him to withdraw. The archbishop faced an eruption of homophobic fury from the Church's Evangelical wing and from several African provinces of the Anglican Communion, which threatened to break away if an openly gay man received an English diocese. Back then, Dr John was told that the time was not right for a gay bishop, the suggestion being that it might be right soon. But after being put forward for several other bishoprics, including Southwark, a post for which many local churchgoers thought he was ideal, he appears to have lost heart.

If the matter ends in court, it will be unprecedented. The Church will no doubt claim it has a right to deny high office to openly gay men, as its first points of reference are the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian teaching, not modern, Western notions on sexuality. It is an old argument: eternal verities of heaven versus changing standards on earth.

One problem for the CofE in this regard, however, is that unlike the Catholic Church, it is "the church by law established" and thus locked into a much more intimate relationship with the state than other faith groups. If Anglicans really do seek de facto exemption from the law on issues such as sexual equality, it would help their case if they cut their remaining ties with the state. At the moment they seem to want to access the privilege of establishment – the main one being the privilege of being heard on national issues – without accepting the responsibilities.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: With 100 days still to go how will Cameron, Miliband and Co. keep us all engaged?

Andrew Grice
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea