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Southwark’s Jeffrey John withdraws from nomination

Southwark Cathedral's Canon Theologian Jeffrey John has today announced his intention to withdraw from his nomination as Bishop of Reading.

The Dean of Southwark Colin Slee made the surprise announcement today at the end of Southwark Cathedral's Sunday morning Choral Eucharist. There was an audible groan of disappointment from the congregation which listened in a silence broken only by the distant crying of babies.

The Dean warned that the withdrawal of Canon John's nomination would not only hurt those who are gay.

"The news will hurt thousands of Christian people who are not gay but believe strongly in God's love and redemption for all his children equally," said the Dean. "It is irrelevant to God's love whether people are male or female, slave or free, black or white, gay or heterosexual. We are addressing spiritual apartheid.

"In the peace marches earlier this year the slogan 'Not in my name' was used to great effect. Let me say very clearly that this action is certainly not in my name and I am bound to say I find it very hard to see how it can conceivably be seen to be in God's name.

"Canon Jeffrey John has been subjected to a campaign of persecution, not by the press, but by a minority of Christians in this country who have used the press's natural interest to further their own agenda."

There was prolonged applause from the congregation for the Dean's support for Jeffrey John before the last hymn could begin.

The announcement of Canon John's withdrawal from the Reading appointment was made simultaneously from Lambeth Palace.

It is understood that the decision in a joint one agreed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Oxford and Canon Jeffrey John.

This afternoon the Archbishop of Canterbury called the situation a "time of open and painful confrontation".

Archbishop Rowan Williams, speaking in the garden of Lambeth Palace, said he had received many letters in opposition to Dr John taking the post and their content was "very unsavoury indeed". He added that there was "a shocking level of ignorance and hatred" towards homosexuals.

Read the exchange of letters between Jeffrey John and the Bishop of Oxford

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