Gay Cleric calls for a stop to Church of England leaks

Stop Church of England leaks before choosing archbishop, says gay cleric

Jeffrey John wants culprit found, saying leaks from Crown Nominations Commission cost him job as bishop of Southwark

Matthew Taylor, Sunday 15 April 2012 21.14 BST

A senior cleric has called on the Church of England to open an investigation to identify the person responsible for leaking information from the committee that will select the next archbishop of Canterbury.

In the latest skirmish between rival factions in the church, Jeffrey John, the most senior openly gay cleric, said leaks from the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) stopped him from becoming the Bishop of Southwark in 2010.

In a letter published in the Guardian, he insisted the church must clear up the matter before the CNC meets to nominate a replacement for Rowan Williams.

He wrote: “It would be good to know that steps are being taken to identify the real culprit and ensure that he will not be involved in nominating the new archbishop or in any further appointments.”

There have been growing tensions within the church over the selection of the new archbishop. Last week liberal Anglicans expressed concern that Glynn Harrison, who believes some gay people can be counselled to suppress or possibly change their sexual orientation, was one of the lay members on the commission. Opponents feared his role could deepen divisions over homosexuality in a church riven by the issue of holding gay civil ceremonies in churches and the consecration of gay bishops.

In a statement last week Harrison, the emeritus professor of psychiatry at Bristol University, stated he did not believe in a “gay cure” and had never offered formal counselling or therapy.

In his letter John, now the Dean of St Albans, said suspicion for the 2010 leak had originally fallen on the Very Rev Colin Slee, the former dean of Southwark Cathedral, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2010. Last year the journalist at the centre of the story said Slee was not responsible and accused some within the church of hypocrisy.

John writes: “Colin made the point that to suspect him was ludicrous, since he strongly supported me for the Southwark post, and the obvious purpose of the leak was to stir up threats of reaction among hard-line evangelicals and frighten the CNC out of appointing me. Following Colin’s death and the publication of this memorandum, the journalist who received the leak was honourable enough to publish a statement that Colin was not his source.”

An inquiry into the 2010 leak was carried out by Lady Fritchie, a crossbench peer, but its findings were never published. A Church of England spokesman said on Sunday the report was never intended to be made public and was “a private document for the archbishop and CNC members”.

The spokesman added that there were no plans to start a fresh investigation into the 2010 leak. “In these sorts of situations anyone on a committee could theoretically have spoken to a third party who then passed it on. That means we are talking about potentially hundreds of people,” he said.

The commission, which will hold its first meeting in May, is expected to recommend a successor to Rowan Williams in autumn. The nominee then has to be approved by the prime minister and the Queen before taking up the post.

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