A gay clergyman whose appointment as a Church of England bishop was derailed by international protests faced more opposition Friday in his new post as a cathedral dean.
The Reverend Jeffrey John, who last year withdrew his name from consideration as bishop, was appointed dean of St. Albans Cathedral, the shrine of England's first Christian martyr. John, 51, has said he is involved in a celibate relationship.
Opponents of the appointment expressed dismay before Friday's installation service at the cathedral. Two parishes in St. Albans diocese have withheld their contributions to diocesan funds. "I don't think John should be given a senior position in the church," said Paul Gardner, archdeacon of Exeter and a member of pressure group Anglican Mainstream, which says it upholds "scriptural truth" and opposes gay clergy.
Last year John's appointment as bishop of Reading caused an uproar in the Anglican Communion, the international body of churches associated with the Church of England. He withdrew, reportedly under pressure from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who reversed his earlier support for John's appointment. The outcry was later overshadowed by the confirmation in the United States of
the Reverend V. Gene Robinson, who has a male partner, as bishop of New Hampshire.
The Right Reverend Christopher Herbert, the bishop of St. Albans, has praised John as a good, caring pastor known for his intelligence and courage. Last month, addressing his diocesan synod, Herbert apologized for causing hurt and dismay with John's appointment but urged his critics to recognize that theirs was not the only legitimate interpretation of the Bible relating to homosexuality. He said he opposes blessing same-sex relationships, adding that important issues surrounding the question of homosexuality remain for the Church of England to resolve.
Inclusivechurch, a group that supports gay clergy, also welcomed the appointment. "We recognize the pain and difficulty it has caused to a minority of Christians, but we nevertheless strongly believe Dr. John's appointment is the work of the Holy Spirit and that his work will bring a greater inclusivity to
the church," said the Reverend Giles Goddard, the group's secretary.