A delegation of five or six leaders Evangelical leaders were due to meet with the Bishop of St Albans in the week beginning 10 April after about 40 clergy and laity protested against the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans. A number of clergy and parish leaders have talked about capping their parish quota or of not inviting the Bishop to do confirmations.
Philip Lovegrove, chairman of the Diocesan Board of Finance for over 30 years, and a lay canon of the Cathedral, one of those leading the protest, said that in the meeting with the Bishop they were likely to begin by pressing him on how he can now be a focus for unity in the diocese after making such a controversial appointment. He predicted that while there has been much talk about capping parish share an organised campaign was less likely to develop. “Big givers will leave the Church of England or put their collection money to other sources,” he said.
A statement by the Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship called the appointment “a serious error of judgement.” They said: “We are aggrieved that the diocesan bishop, who has also called on people not to take precipitate action, should have agreed to the appointment, thus creating division within the Diocese and the wider Anglican Communion.” They also repudiated the statements in support of ‘gay unions’ by Canon John and the Bishop of St Albans as “wholly erroneous and contrary to scripture, tradition and reason.”
The open evangelical grouping ‘Fulcrum’ supported the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John. While questioning the “insensitive timing” and lack of consultation, Fulcrum promised to pray for him as he took up his new ministry. The group said that the appointment of a Dean and Bishop were different matters. “Dr John’s position as a Dean means that those disagreeing with his point of view will not be asked to swear an oath of canonical obedience to him; his role will not be a ‘focus of unity’.” Fulcrum also welcomed Jeffrey John’s commitment to uphold rather than campaign against the church’s teaching and to live within its guidelines.
St Albans parish diverts money to True Freedom Trust in protest at Jeffrey John
Holy Trinity Church in Barnet is planning to donate more than £5,000 to the True Freedom Trust, in protest at the appointment of Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans.
The True Freedom Trust, which is based in the north east of England, is a support network for lesbian and gay people who are “struggling with their sexuality” and claims to be able to stop sexual thoughts in lesbian and gay people. Testimonies on the TFT website suggesting it also promises a “cure” for homosexuality.
In response, Richard Kirker, General Secretary of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement said such a group was directly harmful to LGBT Christians, and by funding it, the Barnet church was being “vicious”. “I can think of nothing meaner-spirited, more spiteful and vicious than trying to penalise the diocese for welcoming a distinguished churchman as dean. “The True Freedom Trust is a deplorable organisation that only helps compound the sense of guilt and lack of self-worth that many gay people find themselves experiencing because of all the negative attitudes that churches of this persuasion inculcate them with,” he said.