Church in Wales fails to elect a ‘gay’ bishop

Dr Jeffrey John won a majority of votes at the closed door meeting of the electoral college for Llandaff, but failed to reach the required two thirds majority

The Church in Wales press office reports that a three day conclave of the church’s Electoral College failed to elect a Bishop of Llandaff. The 23 Feb 2017 statement said “none of the candidates considered received the number of votes required for election – a two-thirds majority.”

On 21 Feb 2017, 47 lay, clergy and episcopal delegates from across the Church in Wales gathered in a closed door session at the cathedral to elect a 72nd bishop of Llandaff in succession to the Most Rev. Barry Morgan, who retired on 31 January 2017. The press statement noted the “business of the College was rooted in prayer, worship and quiet reflection, as well as open and friendly debate and discussion.”

Speculation the meeting would see the first “gay” bishop in the Church in Wales was rife in the weeks before the election. A hard-nosed but often mercurial ecclesiastical political operator Archbishop Barry Morgan was perceived as pushing for the election of a gay cleric, to follow upon his coup in electing the Church in Wales first woman bishop, Joanna Penberthy last fall.

Sources tell Anglican Ink Dr. Morgan almost had his wish fulfilled, as the Dean of St Alban’s, the Very Rev. Jeffrey John, placed first among the candidates standing for election, but was not able to reach the two-thirds mark. Christian Today’s Harry Farley reported Dr John won “support from more than half of the nominating body.”

In 2003 Dr John was nominated to be the Bishop of Reading, but withdrew in the wake of criticism over his progressive views on homosexuality. Dr. John was criticized for having been in a long-term relationship with another priest, that was formalized as a civil partnership under English law. The Church of England and Church in Wales permit clergy to enter into civil domestic partnerships, however, the Church of England asks that they clergy affirm they are celibate.

The canons of the Church in Wales make no such demands, but until recently has blocked partnered clergy from standing for election to the episcopate. In 2008 Dr. Morgan told electors gathered to choose a bishop for Bangor they should not consider any candidate in a domestic partnership.

In recent years, Dr. Morgan has softened his views, stating in his last presidential address to the Church in Wales synod on 14 Sept 2016 that Scripture, taken as a whole, did not condemn same-sex relationships.

Under the terms of the Constitution of the Church in Wales the responsibility of filling the vacancy falls to the Bench of Bishops. The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the Rt. rev. John Davies, President of the Electoral College, said the process leading up to an eventual appointment would include a wide-ranging consultation of both the laity and the clergy from across the Church in Wales, the church’s press release said.

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