Stephen Bates on Jeffrey Johns and Atonement
Insisting that their attack had nothing to do with renewing their assault on Dr John because of his stance on homosexuality, the two suffragan bishops, the Right Rev Pete Broadbent of Willesden and Wallace Benn of Lewes, claimed their criticism was theological not personal.
Along with Bishop Tom Wright of Durham, who earlier criticised the BBC for allowing Dr John on, the bishops admitted that they had not read the talk before launching their attack. They based their criticism of what Dr John said on an extract read to them over the telephone by a Sunday newspaper journalist who is the son of a leading evangelical vicar. Dr Wright said he was "fed up" with the BBC for allowing such "unfortunate" views as Dr John's to be given air time.
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"I am not being homophobic. It's not a war on Jeffrey John. I've got nothing against him at all."
No, no, of course not. Broadbent - who used to be a Labour councillor in Islington - and Benn were two of the leaders of the campaign to oust John four years ago.
In an entry on this site, the Right Rev Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney and a friend of Dr John's, wrote:
"Easter is a time for stringing up the innocent and this year once again the sacrificial victim is the dean of St Albans. We all know the reason why he's hated by conservatives ... not because he's gay but because he's honest ... he has been saying nothing but the truth known by most people in the pews: that the idea of God murdering his son for the salvation of the world is barbaric and morally indefensible."
Dr John himself has insisted his remarks were in line with the Church of England's doctrinal commission on the subject, drawn up, among others, by Dr Williams and the same evangelical bishop of Durham, Dr Wright.
Dr John said:
One of the reasons I wanted to give the talk was that the doctrine of the cross I was taught as a child kept me from faith for a long time and I have met very many others who have reacted in the same way."