The Dean of St Albans, the Very Reverend Jeffrey John, has written a letter to the Guardian about the leak from the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) in July 2010 that Jeffrey was a shortlisted candidate for the See of Southwark. The leak was clearly designed to sabotage the possibility of Jeffrey being appointed. There is a suspicion that the same person also acted to ensure that Jeffrey was not appointed to Salisbury. Plus, Jeffrey’s name was being put forward when Bishop Nicholas Holtam (who was appointed to Salisbury), announced his intention to appoint a new bishop of Ramsbury.
The archbishop of Canterbury set up an inquiry into the leak under Baroness Fritchie, a cross bench peer. Jeffrey says this inquiry was never published, and was said to have been unable to reach a conclusion.
Jeffrey writes that before the Crown Nominations Commission meets to nominate the next archbishop of Canterbury 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.
Jeffrey’s letter follows hard on the heels of last week’s concern about Glynn Harrison’s membership of the CNC because of his belief some gay people can be counseled to suppress or possibly change their sexual orientation. In a statement last week Harrison, said he did not believe in a “gay cure” and had never offered formal counselling or therapy. However, his involvement with True Freedom Trust and other groups arguing that to conform with Church teaching people should repress their sexual identity belies Harrison’s denial.
Yesterday a Church of England spokesman (would that be William Fittall, the Secretary General?) said 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.
So, the Church House spokesman now admits that it’s easy for anyone to leak information from a CNC meeting which could be passed on to hundreds of people. The challenge for Baroness Fritchie in her investigation was to identify which person or persons from a very small pool of people in the case of Southwark, leaked Jeffrey’s name. That shouldn’t be so difficult, should it, Church House spokesman?
Changing Attitude’s suspicion is that the name of the CNC member who leaked Jefrrey’s name is known in Church House. It was also perfectly well known that Colin Slee who was ostracized following the leak was not the person.
There was a motive to the leak – to sabotage the appointment of a priest living in a faithful, stable, celibate gay relationship, in total conformity with Church policy. There is a limited pool of CNC members with such a motive, so Baroness Fritchie’s task wasn’t in reality that difficult. If someone on the committee might have spoken to a third party resulting in potentially hundreds of people knowing, then members of staff at Church House are likely to be among the knowing crowd. There may also be members of staff at Church House with a similar interest in sabotaging the appointment of a priest who is openly gay and living with his life partner.
Let me be clear about this. Changing Attitude believes there is a member of the Crown Nominations Commission and there are staff members at Church House who believe they are right to sabotage the appointment of someone because they are gay. The legal advice issued by William Fittall on 16 June 2011 (GS Misc 992) was clearly framed specifically to block the appointment of Jeffrey John as a bishop. Readers might also like to review the paper addressing the legal advice written by Dr Rob Clucas from the University of Hull, a Changing Attitude trustee.