Anglicans clash over gay bishop

 Conservative and evangelical Anglicans will meet the Bishop of Oxford today (Friday) in a final attempt to persuade him not to appoint a gay man as the new Bishop of Reading. The group will tell Richard Harries that Canon Jeffrey John is unfit to take up the post because he has had an active homosexual relationship. Although Dr John says the 27 year relationship is now celibate, they are angry that he has failed to express regret or repentance. Their attack on his appointment comes as a group of 15 liberal diocesan bishops prepares to express their support for Dr John in an open letter. This follows another letter from predominantly Evangelical clergy against his appointment. The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says the dispute is a sign of the depth and potential bitterness of the divisions within the Church over how homosexuality should be treated. Speaking during the BBC's Radio 4 Thought for the Day slot this morning, the Bishop of Oxford called for greater respect in the debate and explained how the differences of opinion were primarily ones of biblical interpretation. The group of churches meeting Bishop Harries have threatened to withhold funding from the diocese. Many of those involved have large congregations and have said they could even seek pastoral care from other bishops. They will ask Bishop Harries to rescind Dr John's appointment. The meeting was due to take place as 15 other bishops prepared to sign a letter rebutting criticisms of Dr John by nine senior clergy earlier this week. It is intended as a statement of support for both Dr John and Bishop Harries. The Times says the group are anxious to avoid widening the split within the Church, but that they feel unable to remain silent any longer. The danger of a schism grew on Thursday when the leader of the biggest Anglican church in the world said he would cause a split if Dr John was made a bishop. Archbishop Peter Akinola, leader of the 17.5 million strong Nigerian church, told the BBC: "We claim to be Bible-loving Christians." He said: "We cannot be seen to be doing things clearly outside the boundaries allowable in the Bible." Source: Ekklesia

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