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Breaking News – Nothing Changes

Dean of St Albans Jeffrey JohnBy Peter Ould

What is it with the media? They have a perfectly well laid out news report in the Church Times which is followed up by a reasonable and easy to comprehend press release from the House of Bishops. Result? Apparently the policy of the Church of England changes overnight and the Church is in crisis.

Lets get the timeline clear. When the House of Bishops responded to the introduction of Civil Partnerships the pastoral guidelines indicated that there was nothing intrinsically incompatible with being a priest and being in a Civil Partnership, as long as priests remained celibate. Then Jeffrey John was nominated as the new Bishop for Southwark (along with a number of other names) and as a response the House of Bishops sought legal advice as to what grounds would or wouldn’t be reasonable to form a judgement around whether a candidate was suitable. That advice was eventually leaked and then released and I wrote about it here.
The grounds for consideration were as follows.
  • whether the candidate had always complied with the Church’s teachings on same-sex sexual activity
  • whether he was in a civil partnership
  • whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex sexual relationship
  • whether he had expressed repentance for any previous same-sex sexual activity
  • whether (and to what extent) the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question, the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion
On the basis of bullets three and four (and probably five) the Archbishops decided that Jeffrey John was not a suitable candidate. No news there.
Read here
Read also:  Church of England guidelines on choosing Bishops (pdf) produced by General Secretary William Fittall in June 2011 in the light of the Equality Act

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