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Topics In the News
Senior Church of England Cleric Endorses Marriage Equality
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/23/12
Last updated on: 07/23/12
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Dr. Jeffrey John.

Dr. Jeffrey John, Dean of St. Albans, has endorsed marriage equality in a new video issued by Great Britain's Out4Marriage campaign. The most senior openly gay cleric in the Church of England denounced the Church's opposition to same-sex marriage and said that God favors marriage equality.

As Stephen Gray reports in PinkNews, Dr. John said that the institutional Church was speaking "without integrity" when it opposed an equal right to a civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples.

His video made for the Out4Marriage campaign was released on July 23, 2012, the day before he is scheduled to attend a reception for the glbtq community hosted by Prime Minister Cameron at Number 10 Downing Street.

In the video, John says he is "very glad about and grateful for" the government's promise to achieve marriage equality by 2015.

But, he adds, "I am also sad because the Church that I love and serve is opposing it, when it should be rejoicing at it. And sad because the Church is meant to show Christ's face to the world and on this subject, it doesn't."

"The Gospel says that God is love; the Doctrine of the Trinity says that God Himself exists as a Union of Persons in love and that He made us in His own image. In other words, He made us persons who are capable of loving one another as He loves us. The Church calls marriage holy and a sacrament because when two people love another so much that they want to be united for life, then that commitment, that covenant of love between them, reflects something of God's own nature, His kind of loving in us."

"When we love somebody so much that we really do care more about them than we do ourselves, then we have found the greatest thing in life--the holiest part of us."

He concedes that gay and lesbian couples cannot conceive children themselves, but points out that neither can a hetreosexual couple if they are infertile or past the age of childbearing. "The Church has never refused to marry a hetreosexual couple that can't have children, so why refuse gay couples?"

Speaking directly to gay people, he pleads that we not "judge God by the Church. The official Church doesn't speak with integrity on this issue and so, frankly, doesn't deserve to be listened to."

"If you are gay," he continues, "please understand that God made you as you are, and loves you as you are, and if you invite Him into your relationship, then of course He will bless you and sustain your love just as much as He blesses and sustains any other marriage."

"I know that's true from my own experience and that's why I'm Out4Marriage, because I'm sure God is too."

In 2003 John's appointment as Bishop of Reading was announced. The appointment created controversy both in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion because of his long-term, celibate relationship with the Rev. Grant Holmes, also a Church of England priest. Because of the controversy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, pressured John to withdraw his acceptance of the appointment.

In 2004, he was appointed Dean of St. Albans, a prestigious position in the Church because St. Alban's Cathedral stands over the place where the martyred saint was buried. It is regarded as the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Great Britain.

In 2006, John and Holmes entered into a civil partnership.

In 2008, it was widely rumored that John was the leading candidate for the post of Bishop of Bangor in Wales. In 2010, he was thought to be the leading candidate for appointment as Bishop of Southwark. In both instances, however, conservatives in the Church succeeded in thwarting his advancement.

In an interview with Ruth Gledhill of the Times (London), John said in March 2012 that the "Church is the last bastion of prejudice."

In the interview, he discusses the theological underpinning of his support for marriage equality and points out that opponents of same-sex marriage in the United Kingdom "seem to ignore the fact that the ten other countries which have already legalised same sex marriage have not experienced any of the horrors that they keep predicting. Marriage and family life in those countries have not been harmed in any way."

In addition, he says that the Church of England's opposition to same-sex marriage imperils its own future. "The fact that fifty years on the Church is seen as Enemy Number One of gay people is a disaster, both for our own morale and for our mission to the country. The Conservative Party realised ten years ago that the equal treatment of gay people had become a litmus test of basic human decency and changed its view; but it is a test the Church now spectacularly fails. We have become the last refuge of prejudice."

He adds, "It is worse because the Church's opposition to gay relationships is so patently unprincipled. In the Church of England we readily bless the second and even third marriages of couples who never darken our doors, yet we reject hundreds of our own faithful clergy and laypeople who long to bring their love and commitment before God and ask his blessing. While we dare to preach justice and equality in Christ's name to the world, we seek exemptions to equality laws when it comes to our own employment and disciplinary practices. While we threaten to demote or debar American and Canadian Anglicans for appointing openly gay bishops and blessing gay unions, we are trying to appease homophobic Anglican churches in Africa which support extreme social and legal measures against homosexuals."

He concludes that "Not only gay people are repelled by all this. Many more people of goodwill who instinctively expect the Church to uphold justice and truth are scandalised when it so obviously does not. If secularism has gained ground in Britain in recent years, along with the demand that the Church of England must be disestablished and surrender its voice in national life, then it is our mishandling of the gay issue more than anything else that has brought it about."

Below is John's Out4Marriage video.

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