‘I’ll sue Church of England if it bars me from being bishop,’  Says Jeffrey John

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Very Rev Jeffrey John, Dean of St Albans, has instructed an eminent employment lawyer to complain to Church officials after being rejected for the role of Bishop of Southwark.

Sources say the dean, one of the most contentious figures in the Church, believes he could sue officials under the Equality Act 2010, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexuality. Such a case could create a damaging new rift within the CoE.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryMinistry of the Ordained* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesSexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships* TheologyEthics / Moral TheologyPastoral Theology

29 Comments
Posted January 15, 2012 at 6:49 am

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1. Mark Baddeley wrote:

Any surprises here?

January 15, 10:33 am | [comment link]
2. RMBruton wrote:

‘I’m sorry Mr. John, your fifteen minutes were up a long time ago. Next!’

January 15, 10:55 am | [comment link]
3. carl wrote:

Uh-oh.  I think I heard the sound of shoe dropping.  And a rather large rainbow-colored shoe at that.  Such a legal action if successful would put paid to the CoE and likely the Anglican Communion as currently constructed as well.  I imagine the august eyebrows are being raised in severe arches over this news.  Mr Jeffery Johns must be convinced to back down or cataclysm awaits.

carl

January 15, 11:11 am | [comment link]
4. tjmcmahon wrote:

How does any human being claim to have a RIGHT to apostolic authority?  For all intents and purposes, he has claimed that God MUST, by law of man (or threat of lawsuit of dubious standing), grant himself, Jeffrey John, the authority vested in the apostles at Pentacost.
To have made the threat, by definition, eliminates him as a candidate for bishop.  He should be immediately deposed from orders.

January 15, 11:22 am | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

He and his supporters keep pushing this but he is unfit to become a bishop - it emerged that he had been untruthful in his statements the first time round.  This is the comment I made, the last time this came up:

How short peoples’ memories are.

The problem over Jeffrey John in 2003 came to a head with allegations that he had been untruthful in a statement he had given about his domestic arrangements.  This allegation was made in an article in the Daily Telegraph in June 2003:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1433712/Gay-bishop-and-curate-boyfriend-bought-flat-together-last-year.html

In a statement issued last week, Dr John insisted that he and his boyfriend, whom he did not identify, had not been sexually active for a decade. He added: “My partner and I have never lived together (apart from one brief period while he was moving house) because our separate ministries have never made it possible to do so. However, we rely on each other for support and spend as much free time together as possible.”

Last night, however, the Diocese of Oxford confirmed that the men jointly own a £235,000 flat in Roehampton, south-west London, near the church where Mr Holmes works. They hold regular dinner parties there.

Friends have told The Telegraph that before buying the flat last year Mr Holmes may have used Dr John’s Southwark house as a correspondence address. The disclosures have further angered the critics, who say the statements given by Dr John last week were misleading.


With the emerging details of Dr John’s private life, it was no longer possible for the Bishop of Oxford and the ABC to push this through under the radar.  Faced with a revolt by evangelical and high church Anglicans, as well as from the Communion, the Queen expressed her concern [twice apparently] and a meeting was held between Dr John, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the then Bishop of Oxford.  Dr John agreed to withdraw.

He was appointed to what was then the evangelical St Albans Abbey as Dean and in 2006 entered into a civil partnership.

The issue of truthfulness is as pertinent now as it was in 2003.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 15, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
6. Nikolaus wrote:

He’s absolutely perfect for Anglicanism.  Tjmcmahon is absolutely correct - NO ONE holds an automatic right to any ministerial or priestly office, let alone bishop.  His own actions disqualify him.

I have been baptized too!

January 15, 12:47 pm | [comment link]
7. Betsybrowneyes wrote:

I totally agree with #4 and #6 that such actions disqualify him. What egotism.

January 15, 1:16 pm | [comment link]
8. carl wrote:

When considered strategically, this is a good thing.  What is needed (and has been needed for some time) is a lever that will force conservatives to act.  This is not good for the established church, but it is good for orthodox Christianity.  It must inevitably cause the separation of legitimate Christianity from the dead hand of a corrupt and corrupting leadership that increasingly dominates the CoE. 

File that lawsuit, Jeffrey John.  Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.

carl

January 15, 1:17 pm | [comment link]
9. Chazaq wrote:

This whole issue could be resolved by simply making him the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

January 15, 1:19 pm | [comment link]
10. paradoxymoron wrote:

Are you being ironic, carl?

January 15, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
11. carl wrote:

10.  paradoxymoron

I am deadly serious. 

carl

January 15, 1:25 pm | [comment link]
12. Mark Baddeley wrote:

It’s worth comparing this to the recent US Supreme Court case of the Lutheran school teacher who was sacked for threatening to sue. There the US justices decided unanimously that churches had to have a free hand in dealing with their leadership (even so far as refusing to limit it simply to ‘ministers’).

But one suspects that the UK would acknowledge no such need in a civil society, nor would it be recognized that 1)agitating for a bishopric, and 2) threatening to sue if you are barred from one pretty well indicates all by itself that you aren’t going to make a good Christian leader.

I will acknowledge that Jeffrey John is reported to have made this threat only over a bar against his appointment and not simply if he is not appointed. And that’s a bit less bad. But it does seem as though he and his active and media savvy band of supporters seem to think that a ‘ban’ is the only reason why he would not be offered such a position. But, as pageantmaster has indicated, there’s a lot of ‘smoking guns’ in his history that would indicate he isn’t fit, even on the sub-biblical criteria that the CoE is using.

January 15, 1:53 pm | [comment link]
13. Ad Orientem wrote:

[Comment deleted by Elf]

January 15, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
14. Cennydd13 wrote:

The Rev Mr Johns has no more right to a bishop’s mitre than the Man in the Moon does.

January 15, 3:39 pm | [comment link]
15. Teatime2 wrote:

If he does invoke the equality laws, then it’s not just the C of E that would be affected. So if anyone is gleefully considering the dire effects on the C of E, he or she should consider that the C of E could be in a better position with regard to secular laws than some other churches.

Such a lawsuit would be a gift to the forces who have long wanted the churches and religious organizations held up to the lens of the equality laws. But I think it all will/would backfire mightily on Mr. John.

January 15, 4:13 pm | [comment link]
16. driver8 wrote:

Just a slight note of caution. The story seems entirely based on anonymous sources. Given British libel laws, the Mail is surely very likely to believe it has evidence to support its story. However it ought to lead one to be slightly more skeptical than if the story had actually provided any evidence.

January 15, 4:31 pm | [comment link]
17. AnglicanFirst wrote:

A man who would be bishop goes to the secular courts to demand his appointment.

What an incongruity.  A man who is supposed to be a supporter of the episcopacy takes the episcopacy to court.

Does this mean that if he were to become a bishop that he would agree to have disputes within his episcopacy settled by secular courts?

January 15, 6:05 pm | [comment link]
18. MatthewM wrote:

Ah yes, democracy in action. This is why the CofE, AC and all democratic ruled religions will fail. GOD help all of you.

January 15, 6:08 pm | [comment link]
19. NoVA Scout wrote:

While there may be some conveniences in being and established church, this story (assuming it is accurate - No. 16’s caution is important) illustrates how fortunate we are in this country not to have the confusion of entwining governmental and religious structures.  Last week’s decision by the US Supreme Court reminds us that our governmental structures will, under the Constitution, steer well clear of embroilment in internal sectarian issues.

January 15, 9:13 pm | [comment link]
20. A Senior Priest wrote:

Oh for the days when someone who was elected bishop ran away from the “honor” and had to be forcibly returned to his diocese in chains!

January 15, 9:15 pm | [comment link]
21. Jim the Puritan wrote:

As a point of information, in a total disregard of First Amendment jurisprudence on religious liberty, the Obama administration argued in the Lutheran School case that the federal government likewise has the power to prohibit “discrimination” in the selection of ministers and teachers.  Everyone knew what the 800 pound gorilla in the room was, although never stated. Fortunately, the Supreme Court Justices unanimously rejected that assertion of governmental power, thus stopping a huge attack on religious freedom by the present administration.

January 15, 9:28 pm | [comment link]
22. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Well, now, you must all remember that he has a “right” to be a bishop, just like he has a “right” to be a priest, and a “right” to redefine the sacrament of Christian marriage.  It’s all about his rights, nothing more.  Why does everybody has a problem with this?  hmmm

January 15, 10:01 pm | [comment link]
23. driver8 wrote:

I note that Peter Ould, has provided a confirmation of this story.

My reaction is that, of course, legal action would be deplorable (1 Cor. 6.1-8) but the story evidences the mess into which the COE has got itself.

January 15, 10:58 pm | [comment link]
24. driver8 wrote:

The story has now been picked up by all the broadsheet papers in England. The story is still anonymously sourced but one or two alleged details have been added:

1. From the Guardian:

A source close to John told the Sunday Times: “This is not a case of demanding something he is not entitled to but a way of resolving the flawed voting process that prevented him being made the bishop of Southwark.”

2. From the Telegraph:

Dr John is thought to have attempted to resolve the potential dispute by suggesting he would accept other bishoprics.

January 15, 11:41 pm | [comment link]
25. driver8 wrote:

3. I think updated from the Mail

one source said Dr John suggested he would drop his legal threat if he felt he would not be ruled out for future posts

January 15, 11:47 pm | [comment link]
26. driver8 wrote:

So let’s imagine, very crudely, Dean John’s position:

1. Being a celibate homosexual is no bar to being appointed as a bishop
2. Being in a celibate civil union is no bar to being appointed as a bishop.
3. Disagreeing with the current COE policy on same sex relationships is no barrier to being appointed as a bishop.
4. Yet, there is an allegation (Dean Slee’s memo), that the Crown Nominations folks did not consider fairly the candidacy of Dean John for Bishop of Southwark on its merits.
5. Dean John apparently desires to be assured, with legal action as the final recourse, that in any future nominations his candidacy would be considered on its merits.

January 15, 11:58 pm | [comment link]
27. driver8 wrote:

Let’s imagine the church lawyers response:

1. The deliberations of the Crown Nominations Committee are confidential.
2. All candidates are considered on their merits.
3. The current view of the COE is that celibate homosexuals in civil partnerships may be considered for appointment as bishops, though one ground for not being appointed is that a candidate is “divisive”.

January 16, 12:02 am | [comment link]
28. MichaelA wrote:

Hmmm, I detect just a teensy weensy bit of anger on Dean John’s part that he was passed over for bishop. Looks like the committee made the right decison, for a number of reasons.

Driver8, thanks for the link to Peter Ould’s blog. His final comment is both amusing and apt:

“Of course, there is one more question to answer, and that is who to sue? Welcome to the complicated structures of the established Church…”

January 16, 2:46 am | [comment link]
29. driver8 wrote:

Could the Crown Nominations Committee be subject to judicial review? It seems implausible that Dean John should sue the Queen for the appointment of the current Bishop of Southwark.

January 16, 3:40 am | [comment link]


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