Welsh MPs blast Church over 'homophobic' treatment of gay cleric Jeffrey John

Welsh MPs are urging the Church to rethink their rejection of senior gay cleric Jeffrey John after they blocked him from becoming a bishop amid allegations of homophobia.

The intervention from nine MPs comes amid mounting pressure on the Church in Wales after they were accused of discrimination with Dr John saying the only reason his nomination was rejected was his sexuality.

Dr Jeffrey John is currently Dean of St Albans Cathedral after previously being blocked from Bishop of Reading, Bishop of Southwark and Bishop of Bangor.Michael Stephens/PA Archive

In a letter led by Madeleine Moon, MP for Bridgend, the politicians say the process for appointing the new Bishop of Llandaff has been 'flawed' and led to 'considerable disharmony, anger and confusion'.

Saying they 'heard from many quarters' the concerns over homophobia, the MPs called for the election to be halted and Dr John reconsidered in a new vote.

The letter sent to Welsh bishops on Tuesday comes after Dr John said 'a number of homophobic remarks' were made against him during the appointment process and he was later told bishops were 'just too exhausted' to deal with the problems they believed his appointment would cause.

The MPs write: '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.'

Politicians across the southern Welsh constituencies signed the letter including Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, Carolyn Harris, MP for Swansea East, Nia Griffiths, MP for Llanelli, Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore, Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda, Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn, Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly and Gerald Jones, MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

Madeleine Moon, MP for Bridgend, coordinated the letter to Welsh bishops signed by MPs across south WalesMadeleineMoonMP.com

It came on the same day as One Body One Faith, an LGBT grouping in the Church, also wrote to bishops saying the blocking of Dr John was a 'tragedy'.

CEO Tracey Byrne and Chair Jeremy Pemberton, wrote: 'It is entirely unacceptable to problematise a gay man in the way you have. Indeed, it is an insult to him and to every other LGBT+ person in your church.

'We are not problems, we are part of the body of Christ and deserve to treated with dignity, and to be seen as a gift. The capacity of churches to throw talent away because it doesn't come packaged in easily manageable forms is not a reason to discard both the gift and the bearer of the gift, nor does it make that an acceptable policy option.'

The outrage was sparked after Dr John made the highly unusual move of writing an open letter to senior Welsh bishop John Davies expressing his concern at how his nomination had been handled.

'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.

'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.'

A Church in Wales spokeswoman declined to comment on proceedings within the process but strongly denied allegations of homophobia. 

'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,' she said.

'The Bishops have stressed during the whole process that whoever becomes Bishop of Llandaff, whatever their circumstances, will receive their full support.'