The Church of England is on the brink of appointing its first openly gay bishop, according to The Times.
The paper claims the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffrey John, came within one vote of being recommended as the new Bishop of Exeter.
It is thought to be the first time that Dr John has made the shortlist for a diocesan post, although he has been tipped for promotion several times before.
The successful candidate to succeed the Right Rev Michael Langrish as the Bishop of Exeter is to be announced soon.
Although he has missed out on the position, The Times claims Church sources say that it is only a matter of time before Dr John gets a diocesan post.
This year the Church of England dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops. That was the change that allowed Dr John to be considered again after effectively being banned from the episcopacy since 2003.
The Crown Nominations Commission met in October to choose the new diocesan bishop for Exeter. The meeting was chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who would have had the casting vote in the event of a deadlock.
There are already meetings scheduled to choose the bishops to fill six diocesan vacancies next year. These are Europe, Hereford, Liverpool, Guildford, St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, and Southwell and Nottingham. Besides Europe, Hereford and Guildford also have liberal traditions that might make Dr John an acceptable candidate.
At least one bishop is understood to be “furious” that Dr John, 60, did not get the Exeter post and pressure is growing for the Church to prove that it practises what it preaches and does not discriminate against gay clergy who live according to its guidelines.
Although he is in a civil partnership with the Rev Grant Holmes, Dr John is understood to live by the Church’s guidance, which is that gay clergy should remain celibate.
The 60-year-old was forced to give up his appointment as Bishop of Reading in 2003 due to his sexuality and was blocked from the post Bishop of Southwark in 2010.
The position, made vacant by the appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, went to Paul Butler.
A Church of England report produced by four bishops and chaired by former civil servant Sir Joseph last month recommended members of the clergy should be allowed to offer blessings to same-sex couples.
Speaking in an Out4Marriage video last year, Dr John said: “If you are gay, then please understand that God made you as you are, and loves you as you are, and if you invite Him into your relationship, then of course He will bless you and sustain your love just as much as He blesses and sustains any other marriage.”