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    First Published: July 2003
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

In a surprise announcement on Sunday lunchtime gay priest Canon Jeffrey John has said he won't take up his job as Bishop of Reading. His decision follows a furore in the Anglican church over whether an out gay priest could be ordained a Bishop.
Now friends of Jeffrey John say he was forced to step down. Dean of Southwark Colin Slee, told the BBC that he was presented with a ready-made resignation letter - and would never have gone under his own initiative. Colin Slee said it was a "catastrophe" for the Church's image.

The decision will come as a major blow for reformers in the Church of England who've been standing up to massive pressure from conservative clergy and church members in the UK and across the world.

Dr John, who says he's now celibate, said he pulled out of the job because of the "damage" his consecration might cause to the "unity of the Church". The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has publicly praised his dignity but said that homosexuals "are full and welcome members of the Church".

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell warns: "Having scored this victory, anti-gay evangelists are looking to step up their campaign against gay people in the church."

The Archbishop of Canterbury admitted he was shocked at comments he received from some of those against the appointment of Jeffrey John :"...some of the opposition expressed to Canon John's appointment has been very unsavoury indeed.

"A number of the letters I read displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people.

"Our official policies and resolutions as Anglicans commit us to listening to the experience of homosexuals and recognising that they are full and welcome members of the church loved by God.

"Not everyone, it seems, takes equally seriously this element in the teaching of the Anglican Church; and some letters that came from non-believers suggest that the level of foolish and hurtful prejudice in our society is still uncomfortably high.

"Christians who collude with this are simply not living out their calling."

Commentators say that whilst Jeffrey John's withdrawal will put an end to this particular row, the issue of the Church of England's attitude to homosexuality and gay clergy will not go away. The UK Government's decision to recognise gay partnerships and reforms in the rest of the EU and Canada will only increase the pressure.

 

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