The controversy surrounding the appointment of a gay bishop in the Church of England is heating up as a group of senior church clerics published an open letter Saturday supporting Jeffrey John as a suffragan, or assistant, bishop in the diocese of Oxford, saying it will enhance the church's experience of gay Christians. John has said he plans to remain with his male partner of 27 years, although he added that the couple are now celibate.
Nine Church of England bishops wrote an open letter last week expressing concern over the appointment, while the Anglican archbishop of the West Indies and the Anglican primate of Nigeria have called for John to step down because of his support for same-sex relationships. But another group of bishops said in a letter published Saturday that John's appointment "will enable our attentive listening to the experience of gay Christians to be in our midst rather than at second-hand." The letter, signed by eight bishops, also expressed concern about the "unwarranted pressure" John and his partner have been subjected to and thanked the cleric "for his willingness to bear the cost of enriching our life in this way." Peter Selby, bishop of Worcester, told The [London] Times that evangelicals are inadvertently provoking attacks on gays by their opposition to the appointment. "What I don't think they are noticing is what they are doing helps people who are homophobic bigots, because what it does is to supply religious rationality for their attitudes and behavior," he was quoted as saying.