Jeffrey John

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Jeffrey John
Dean of St Albans
A brace of Deans (3645268046) (Jeffrey John cropped).jpg
John in 2009
ChurchChurch of England
DioceseSt Albans
In office2 July 2004 – present
PredecessorChristopher Lewis
Ordination1978 (deacon)
1979 (priest)
Personal details
Birth nameJeffrey Philip Hywel John
Born (1953-02-10) 10 February 1953 (age 68)
Tonyrefail, Glamorgan, Wales
SpouseGrant Holmes
Alma mater

Jeffrey Philip Hywel John (born 10 February 1953) is a Church of England priest, who has served as the Dean of St Albans since 2004. He made headlines in 2003 when he was the first person to have openly been in a same-sex relationship to be nominated as a Church of England bishop.[1] Owing to the consequent controversy he stepped down. In the years since, he has reportedly been considered for at least seven diocesan bishoprics across England, Wales and the Isle of Man.

Early life[edit]

John was born in Tonyrefail in South Wales in 1953. He studied at Tonyrefail Grammar and at Hertford College, Oxford,[2] where he gained a first in classics and modern languages in 1975. He subsequently studied theology at St Stephen's House, Oxford, and obtained second-class honours.

Ordained ministry[edit]

John was ordained in the Church in Wales: he was made deacon at Petertide 1978 (24 June) by David Reece, Assistant Bishop of Llandaff;[3] and ordained priest the next Petertide (30 June 1979) by John Poole-Hughes, Bishop of Llandaff — both times in Llandaff Cathedral.[4] After a curacy in Penarth[5] he returned to Oxford in 1980 to study for a doctorate in Pauline theology. He became chaplain at Brasenose College. In 1984, he was appointed Dean of Divinity at Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1991 he was one of the founder members of Affirming Catholicism, a group promoting Catholicism within the Anglican tradition. He is also a trustee of the organisation. He also supported the campaign for the ordination of women. From 1991 he was the vicar of Holy Trinity, Eltham, (in the Diocese of Southwark) in south London. In 1997 he became Canon Chancellor and Theologian of Southwark Cathedral.

On 20 May 2003 John was nominated as Bishop of Reading, an area bishop in the Diocese of Oxford. The nomination led to controversy both in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion owing to John's long-term relationship (beginning in 1976) with Grant Holmes, also a Church of England priest, despite publicly stating that their relationship was celibate. John received criticism on his nomination both for his stance on gay issues and because he had not publicly repented his past sexual activities in such a way as to indicate that they were wrong. A number of conservative Anglican leaders in various countries stated their intention to split from the communion if the consecration went ahead. Concerns over the potential for division led Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to pressure John to step down. On 6 July 2003, he reportedly withdrew his acceptance of the nomination to the bishopric[6] though it later emerged that he had not in fact agreed to do so.[7] By that point, the process of his taking up the role was already quite advanced.[8] These events inspired the creation of Inclusive Church. In spite of the withdrawal of John the differences in views of homosexuality within the Anglican church continued to cause controversy in 2003 following the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

On 19 April 2004, 10 Downing Street announced John's appointment as Dean of St Albans. He was inducted on 2 July 2004.

Consideration for diocesan sees[edit]

At the end of August 2008, speculation began that John was one of the nominees for the post of Bishop of Bangor in Wales. A series of media reports in August and September 2008[9] added weight to the story, which drew strong negative reactions from conservative commentators from within the Church of England and in other conservative quarters.[10]

July 2010 saw widespread media reports that John was the Crown Nomination Commission's preferred candidate for appointment as Bishop of Southwark[11] in succession to Tom Butler. These reports again attracted wide comment, both in support[12] and in opposition.[13] Subsequent reports suggested that his name had been removed from the list of potential appointees following leaking of the proposal.[14][15]

He was also reportedly on the shortlists to be appointed Bishop of Exeter in 2013[16] and Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich in 2014.[17] It has also been reported that he was omitted from the shortlists for Bishop of St Asaph (2008) and Bishop of Sodor and Man (2017) on grounds of his civil partnership.[18]

In 2017, John was again almost elected as a diocesan bishop, this time as Bishop of Llandaff. His candidacy was reportedly supported by a majority of the electors, but not the required supermajority. When no candidate reached that level of support within the required time-frame, the right to elect lapsed to the House of Bishops of the Church in Wales, who stated that no previous candidate would be considered again. Replying to a letter from John Davies (Bishop of Swansea and Brecon), acting Archbishop of Wales, John made a public response accusing the Church of homophobia throughout the process.[19]


Following a talk broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in Holy Week 2007, John was criticised by some Evangelical bishops: Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham; Pete Broadbent, Bishop of Willesden; and Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes, for denying the Reformed Protestant doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Referring to this particular explanation of the Christ's crucifixion, John said, "It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath."[20] In explaining his own view, he said, "On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God". He cited Julian of Norwich, a widely admired 14th-century English mystic who asserted that "there is no wrath in God".[citation needed]

John has spoken publicly in favour of the introduction of same-sex marriage[21] saying, "If you are gay, then 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." [22]

Personal life[edit]

In August 2006, after being in a relationship for 30 years, John and Grant Holmes entered into a civil partnership.[23][24] Clergy in the Church of England are permitted to enter into same-sex civil partnerships, provided they remain celibate.[25]


  • The Meaning in the Miracles (Canterbury Press, November 2001); ISBN 1-85311-434-0
  • The Ministry of Deliverance (Affirming Catholicism) (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, February 1997); ISBN 0-232-52222-7
  • Marriage, Divorce and the Church (Affirming Catholicism) (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, February 1997); ISBN 0-232-52224-3
  • Living the Mystery: Affirming Catholicism and the Future of the Church (as editor; Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, April 1994); ISBN 0-232-52071-2
  • Permanent, Faithful, Stable: Christian Same-Sex Partnerships (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, January 1994); ISBN 0-232-52075-5
  • Living Tradition: Affirming Catholicism in the Anglican Church (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd, January 1992); ISBN 0-232-51981-1

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Church Times Item, 23 May 2003
  2. ^ "John, Jeffrey Philip Hywel". Who's Who. 2017 (November 2016 online ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. Retrieved 19 March 2017. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  3. ^ "Ordinations". Church Times (#6020). 30 June 1978. p. 8. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 20 October 2020 – via UK Press Online archives.
  4. ^ "Petertide ordinations". Church Times (#6073). 6 July 1979. p. 18. ISSN 0009-658X. Retrieved 20 October 2020 – via UK Press Online archives.
  5. ^ "Jeffrey Philip Hywel John". Crockford's Clerical Directory (online ed.). Church House Publishing. Retrieved 23 March 2017.
  6. ^ Times Online item, The Rise and Fall of Dr Jeffrey John ..., 7 July 2003.
  7. ^ A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality, Stephen Bates (2005) p. 211
  8. ^ BBC News — 'Homophobia' row over Bishop of Llandaff selection (Accessed 19 March 2017)
  9. ^ For example, Times Online item, Gay priest Dr Jeffrey John could become a bishop in Wales, 2 September 2008
  10. ^ For example, David Anderson, a suffragan bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, wrote in a public email, "With regard to moratoria on electing/consecrating any new homosexual bishops in the Anglican Communion, the next chance of such an election isn't in North America. We have become aware through reliable sources that Dr Barry Morgan is a man of his word – he previously has said, 'I [Barry Morgan] would ordain Britain's first gay Bishop.' Wales is in an election process for Bishop of Bangor and the election has as one of its still-secret nominees none other than Jeffrey John, sometime bishop designee for Reading, who had to withdraw when the appointment created an uproar." Virtue Online, 1 September 2008.
  11. ^ Telegraph, "Gay cleric in line to become bishop in Church of England", 3 July 2010
  12. ^ Pink News, "Gay cleric front-runner to become next Bishop of Southwark", 4 July 2010.
  13. ^ Virtue Online, "Southwark Wannabe Bishop Jeffrey John is No Friend of Church of England's Orthodox Wing", 6 July 2010. See also Anglican Mainstream website Archived 7 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine, "Jeffrey John in line to become bishop in Church of England", 3 July 2010.
  14. ^ Telegraph, "Gay cleric blocked from becoming Church of England bishop", 7 July 2010.
  15. ^ Guardian, "Gay clergyman blocked from becoming bishop", 8 July 2010.
  16. ^ Virtue Online — UK: Jeffrey John is a vote away from first gay bishop (Accessed 19 March 2017)
  17. ^ Christian Today — Jeffrey John could become Church of England bishop (Accessed 19 March 2017)
  18. ^ The Guardian — Gay clergyman passed over seven times for promotion to bishop (Accessed 7 April 2017)
  19. ^ The Guardian — Anglican clergyman accuses Church in Wales of homophobia (Accessed 19 March 2017)
  20. ^ "Lent Talks: Jeffrey John". British Broadcasting Corporation. 4 April 2007. Archived from the original on 7 June 2007. Retrieved 1 October 2007.
  21. ^ Bingham, John (23 July 2012), "God backs gay marriage, says Dr Jeffrey John", Daily Telegraph
  22. ^ "Pinc List 2017". Wales Online.
  23. ^ Dean celebrates same-sex union from the Herts Advertiser
  24. ^ BBC News
  25. ^ "Church of England News: Secretary General responds to GAFCON UK". Church of England News. Retrieved 1 July 2017.