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Jeffrey John, Gay Church Of England Dean, Considers Discrimination Lawsuit

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An evangelical demonstrator protests outside of Jeffrey John's church in 2003.
An evangelical demonstrator protests outside of Jeffrey John's church in 2003.

Britain's most senior openly gay cleric is reportedly threatening to sue the Church of England for discrimination after being rejected from being promoted to bishop.

As The Guardian is reporting, Dr. Jeffrey John, the dean of St. Albans' Cathedral, is believed to have hired employment lawyer Alison Downie after he was prevented from becoming the bishop of Southwark in 2010 when the archbishops of Canterbury and York stepped in to block his candidacy following objections from conservative evangelicals in Britain.

The 58-year-old John, who is in a longstanding civil partnership with another cleric but has declared to be celibate, was also forced to give up his appointment as Bishop of Reading in 2003 following a national row over his sexuality, according to Pink News. The Daily Mail also cites unnamed sources who say the dean, described as "one of the most contentious figures in the Church," believes he could sue officials under the Equality Act 2010, which approves the appointment of openly gay bishops as long as they are celibate.

“When he was given and relinquished the position as Bishop of Reading, that was very hard for him to do," an unnamed friend of John's told The Sunday Times, according to The Guardian. "When he was shortlisted but didn’t receive the position of Bishop of Southwark, that was a very bitter blow for him. It doesn’t surprise me that he is considering taking action like this and I think he stands a very good chance.”

The case also has strong support from Rev. Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitude, which works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Anglican communion. "I think the church has behaved appallingly towards him in particular and is continuing to behave appallingly towards its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy and lay people in general," he told The Guardian. "It is time for the church to be held to account for its abusive behaviour and its entrenched prejudice and homophobia."

Numerous reports say that John is no longer personally interested in becoming a bishop, but hopes to use his alleged discrimination case to aide other openly gay clergy members in gaining promotion. Downie and Church of England officials have thus far declined comment on the case.

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