Members of Parliament for constituencies served by the Diocese of Llandaff have responded to allegations that the Very Reverend Jeffrey John was excluded from consideration to become the next diocesan bishop because of his homosexuality and partnership status.
We reported last week on news that the Church in Wales had become embroiled in a controversy over its refusal to elect or appoint Jeffrey John, currently Dean of St Alban’s in England, as the Bishop of Llandaff to succeed the recently retired Barry Morgan (who also served as Archbishop of the Church in Wales).
In an open letter to the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, the most senior bishop in Wales, John wrote
The only arguments adduced against my appointment – in particular by two of the bishops – were directly related to my homosexuality and/or civil partnership – namely that my appointment would bring unwelcome and unsettling publicity to the diocese, and that it might create difficulties for the future Archbishop in relation to the Anglican Communion.
In a telephone call on the evening of March 3rd one of the bishops present confirmed to me that these were the only objections adduced, and explained that the bishops were ‘just too exhausted’ to deal with the problems they believed my appointment would cause. I put it to you that this is not a moral or legal basis on which to exclude me. [Read more here.]
Now, Members of Parliament for constituencies in South Wales congruent with the Diocese have weighed in with a letter of their own. The MPs’ letter, published by Thinking Anglicans, reads
Election of a Bishop of Llandaff
It is with some reluctance and regret that we find ourselves needing to place our concerns relating to recent events within the Church in Wales on the public record.
We had heard from many quarters of concerns and allegations relating to homophobic comments made during the election process for the appointment of a Bishop of Llandaff.
We are aware that neither homosexuality nor civil partnership are a bar to appointment within the Church in Wales. We are strongly of the opinion that leadership, scholarship, compassion and communication skills are the primary qualifications for the tasks facing a Bishop in Wales.
We are sorry to hear the allegations, the distress and the acrimony recent events surrounding the appointment of a new Bishop of Llandaff have created within the Church.
We are of the opinion that ‘exhaustion’ cannot be acceptable as a reason not to appoint someone eminently qualified and what we are informed was the unanimous choice of the electors of Llandaff.
We feel that the present process has been flawed and has let to considerable disharmony, anger and confusion. We respectfully recommend that there is a pause in the appointment process to allow emotions to cool and sound council to be heard. It would then appear appropriate that a new election is called, open to past and new candidates to apply and an open and transparent decision be made. There is now a need for healing and rebuilding of trust and confidence in the legality and moral leadership of the appointment of a much needed new Bishop of Llandaff and we hope this will soon be possible.
Madeleine Moon MP Bridgend
Stephen Doughty MP (MP for Cardiff South and Penarth)
Carolyn Harris MP (MP for Swansea East)
Nia Griffiths MP (MP for Llanelli)
Chris Elmore MP (MP for Ogmore)
Chris Bryant MP (MP for Rhondda)
Chris Evans MP (MP for Islwyn)
Wayne David MP (MP for Caerphilly)
Gerald Jones MP (MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
A response from the Church in Wales has stated that no single candidate reached the required two-thirds majority of the Electoral College votes to be called as bishop. It added
The meeting of the Electoral College for the next Bishop of Llandaff was confidential and the Church in Wales will not comment on speculation about the nomination and discussion of candidates. However, we strongly deny allegations of homophobia in the process. Neither homosexuality nor participation in a civil partnership are a bar to any candidate being either nominated or elected as a Bishop in the Church in Wales. Moreover, this was made clear to members of the Electoral College by its President, the Bishop of Swansea and Brecon.