THE next Bishop of Durham could be a gay cleric.
Jeffrey John, who is Dean of St Albans, has been tipped to fill the role when it is vacated when Justin Welby becomes the Archbishop of Canterbury in March.
The suggestion follows the Church of England’s decision to allow homosexual men in civil partnerships to become bishops, as long as they are celibate.
Dr John was appointed as the Bishop of Reading in 2003, but was forced to step down after protests and was also rejected as the candidate for the Bishop of Southwark post two years ago.
He and his partner became civil partners in 2006, but he has maintained he has remained celibate.
The change in rules has led to his name being touted for the North East role, with the church not expected to announce its appointment until the summer at the earliest.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Durham said: “Justin is still Bishop of Durham until the legal process of his election to Archbishop of Canterbury is confirmed early next month.
“The process for the nomination for a new Bishop of Durham is called the ‘vacancy in see’ and starts in the diocese and requires the Crown Nominations Commission to meet on two occasions per vacancy in see to nominate candidates for diocesan bishoprics to the Crown.
“We are only at the very start of that process and a decision is a way off yet.”