The Church of England (C of E) may be set for an openly-gay bishop after Dr Jeffrey John was put forward for the senior post of Bishop of Southwark, according to media reports.
Evangelical Christians are concerned that Dr John’s teaching on sexual ethics goes against Scripture.
Reform, an evangelical group within the C of E, commented: “Dr John’s teaching regarding homosexual practice is contrary to both the Bible and to the current doctrine of the Church of England.”
Dr John, who is in a civil partnership, is already a controversial figure. He was appointed as Bishop of Reading in 2003 but resigned after protests.
Now Dr John has been shortlisted for the position of Bishop of Southwark, following a meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The church body responsible for selecting a bishop from the shortlist, the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), will make its choice this week.
Canon Chris Sugden, from traditional group Anglican Mainstream, said of Dr John: “He is in a registered civil partnership. Now the Church of England does not believe civil partnerships are the equivalent of marriage.
He added: “Secondly, Dr John, by his own admission, was in an active gay relationship a number of years ago. And he is now said to be celibate, that is fine, one takes that at face value.”
Canon Sugden made clear that active homosexual practice is “not compatible with the teaching of scripture”.
He also said that clergy within any diocese which Dr John was in charge of may not feel able to take an oath of obedience to the Bishop.
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Dr John is a front-runner for the post and said the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, had convened a confidential meeting to approve Dr John’s place on the shortlist.
The Anglican Church currently has a moratorium on consecrating bishops living in same-sex relationships.
The appointment will need to be ratified by both the Queen and the Prime Minister.
Reports suggest David Cameron would be keen for Dr John to be appointed.
In February Mr Cameron told gay lifestyle magazine Attitude that the Church of England should follow the Conservative Party’s example and recognise that “full equality is a bottom-line, full essential”.
In March the US Episcopal Church controversially approved the consecration of its first openly lesbian bishop, Mary Glasspool.
Later the Archbishop of Canterbury said the US church could face sanctions for the consecration.