Church of England gay bishop controversy

The Church of England may be on the
verge of promoting a gay priest to bishop, a step that would widen the split
over sexuality in the global Anglican Communion.

If
that happens, it would appear to be a significant turnaround for Archbishop of
Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the Church of England and the
world’s Anglicans, who recently imposed sanctions on the U.S. Episcopal Church
for electing a lesbian bishop.

According
to reports, Williams is prepared to back the elevation of the Very Rev. Jeffrey
John, who withdrew seven years ago from an appointment as a suffragan
(assistant) bishop in the face of a heated controversy about his homosexuality.
Williams’ office will not comment.

“I
think the strength of the opposition is much weaker this time,” Rev. Canon
Giles Goddard, the chairman of Inclusive Church, said. His group was founded by
people disappointed by John’s failure to become a bishop in 2003.

John,
who is now dean of St. Albans Cathedral, might be seen as a more acceptable
candidate than the U.S. bishop because he has declared he is celibate _ and
therefore not in violation of church teaching.

A
Crown Nominations Commission, composed of 14 Church of England representatives,
including Williams, have secretly chose two nominees to become bishop of
Southwark diocese, the half of London that lies south of the River Thames.

Prime
Minister David Cameron, who has spoken strongly in favour of equal rights for
gays, will have the final decision about whom to recommend to Queen Elizabeth
II, who will make the formal appointment. Southwark diocese says a decision may
not be announced before October.

Williams
has said nothing publicly about the issue.

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