Good news: not that Bishop John!

At last I seem to have actually succeeded in cutting down my blogging, to the extent of not posting for more than a week. In fact I have been commenting quite a bit here and elsewhere, and I have been busy with the rest of my life including trying to reconfigure my computer to run at a decent speed. But I don’t want anyone to think I have gone away completely. So here is a post …

Several years ago a certain Jeffrey John was chosen to be a bishop in the Church of England. But there was an outcry because he was in a relationship with another man, although he stated that he was celibate. This was about the time of the initial controversy about the American gay bishop Gene Robinson. Archbishop Rowan Williams intervened and blocked Jeffrey John’s consecration; instead he was appointed Dean of St Albans.

This year there has been a rapid changeover among the six bishops of the Church in Wales, the independent (and disestablished) sister church of the Church of England in Dean John’s native principality. In April this year the Bishop of St Davids was forced to resign because of allegations of an extra-marital affair. In May a new bishop of Swansea and Brecon took up office. Then in June Bishop Crockett of Bangor, according to the BBC “the first bishop in the UK to have been divorced and remarried”, died. As earlier in the year the Church in Wales had decided not to allow women bishops for the moment, and as at least one Welshman, Rowan Williams, is serving as a bishop in England, there was perhaps a shortage of suitable Welsh candidates for the episcopacy, in a diocese where a Welsh speaker was required.

So it is perhaps not surprising that, as Ruth Gledhill reported, one of the names put forward for the new bishop of Bangor was that of Jeffrey John, a Welshman who had already been chosen for an English bishop’s mitre then rejected. In some ways he was a strong candidate. But for the Church in Wales to elect a gay man, albeit a celibate one, as a bishop would have caused serious problems in the Anglican Communion, reopening wounds that have partly healed since the Lambeth Conference. I would imagine that the Archbishop of Wales would have come under strong pressure both from within his own church and from his predecessor in his post, Rowan Williams, to block the appointment. And that is apparently what he did.

Nevertheless rumours were going around last week that John was among the candidates being considered at a “lock-in” at Bangor Cathedral. Some evangelicals were seriously concerned, not just because Jeffrey John is gay but also because he takes a strong anti-evangelical position on some issues. But when the announcement came their concern turned quickly to relief and joy. For it turned out that the man chosen to be the new bishop was not Jeffrey John but Andrew John, Archdeacon of Cardigan. Andy John, a married father of four, seems to be much more one of their own, according to Chris Sugden a member of the Evangelical Fellowship in the Church in Wales He was trained for the ministry at St John’s Nottingham, and was curate in his home town at the “both Evangelical and Charismatic” St Michael’s, Aberystwyth.

So, for once good news in the Anglican Communion for evangelicals and for conservative Christians in general.

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