Insiders have lodged an official complaint after a gay cleric was barred from being appointed Bishop of Llandaff.
Five members of the Church in Wales' secretive electoral college that debates and votes for candidates have spoken of 'deeply inappropriate' references to Dr Jeffrey John's homosexuality when considering his nomination, Christian Today can reveal.
In a letter to the Church's most senior executive Simon Lloyd, the electors said the remarks against Dr John 'prejudiced' the process making it 'invalid'.
A formal investigation has now been launched into the process and a legal panel chaired by a judge will decide whether to scrap the decision not to take Dr John's nomination forward.
The complaint signed by five of the 47-strong body read: 'We object to the raising at electoral college of the matter of sexuality or civil partnership status, in direct contravention of the Church in Wales's own policy that sexuality or civil partnership status is not a bar to appointment as a Bishop.
'We consider that this action was deeply inappropriate, and prejudiced the electoral college proceedings so as to render them invalid.'
In response Mr Lloyd asked members of the electoral body to approve that normal rules of confidentiality should be waived to allow an investigation.
The appointment for a new bishop is now on hold and may be delayed until the investigation is complete.
Mr Lloyd told electors: 'The timescale is a matter for the Legal Sub-committee and is dependent upon the amount of analysis required and how many times they need to meet. The deliberations of the Committee cannot and should not be hurried.'
A statement from the Church in Wales read: 'Five members of the Electoral College, which was assembled to elect the Bishop of Llandaff in February, have now submitted a complaint to the Secretary of the Electoral College. Their complaint is in relation to certain aspects of the conduct of the College. This matter has now been referred to the Legal Sub-Committee, which is a body in the Church in Wales assembled to consider legal and governance matters.
'The responsibility of appointing the next Bishop of Llandaff has passed to the Bench of Bishops. It is too early to say whether the deliberations of the Legal Sub Committee will have any effect on the timing of an announcement.'
Dr John, currently Dean of St Albans Cathedral, was nominated to be Bishop of Llandaff and despite winning more than half the votes and unanimous support from local electors, he narrowly missed out on the two-thirds needed to be appointed.
The decision was then passed to the Welsh Bench of Bishops who refused to reconsider his nomination in a new shortlist.
But in a letter following his dismissal, Dr John said the only reason he was blocked was his sexuality.
'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,' he wrote in a highly unusual open letter to Bishop John Davies, the senior Church leader in Wales.
'To ride roughshod of the very clearly expressed, unanimous view of a diocese in this way is extraordinary, unprecedented and foolish,' he told Bishop Davies.
'You decided, arbitrarily, to ignore the submissions that you had asked for, and to declare that those who were discussed at the Electoral College were now, in fact, no longer to be considered. This is a clear and ludicrous breach of process, and a further insult to the people of the diocese, and very many others who took the trouble to contribute their view.'
The Church in Wales strongly denies allegations of homophobia.
A statement from the Church read: '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.'