BISHOP of London Dr David Hope, who recently admitted his sexuality was ''a grey area'', is to be the next Archbishop of York.
He will succeed Dr John Habgood when he retires in August after 11 years.
Loading article content
It is the second most senior post in the Church of England and his appointment could intensify the debate about homosexuality but will also delight many traditionalists: 54-year-old Yorkshireman Dr Hope, a leading Anglo Catholic, opposed the introduction of women priests.
Last month, Dr Hope said his sexuality was a ''greyer'' area than that of most people but that he had chosen to live a celibate life.
He was prompted to issue the statement by what he described as ''seriously intimidatory'' pressure from gay rights campaign OutRage!, led by Mr Peter Tatchell.
At a news conference yesterday, Dr Hope said his appointment came as ''a very considerable surprise'' even to him, because of his commitment to the London diocese.
He believed he should use his new role to encourage considered discussion about homosexuality within the Church, the bishop said.
''It is my business to ensure that all who are involved are given a proper voice and a proper ear, and there is a proper process of listening to the debate,'' he said. ''At the present time, I am just a little concerned that the debate is causing rather more heat than light.''
Sexuality, however, had not been his ''main concern'', he emphasised.
At the time of the bishop's statement in response to the OutRage! incident, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, led widespread Church condemnation of what he called ''reprehensible intrusion'' into Dr Hope's private life.
The Church's position is that homosexuals can be priests but they must remain celibate.
Although strongly opposing women's ordination during its debate, Dr Hope has since won admiration for the diplomatic way he has tried to accommodate both sides in his London diocese.
''I have refrained from ordaining women but nevertheless attempted to affirm and encourage the ministry of women,'' he said.
The bishop added: ''I hope that my appointment is a signal to the Anglo Catholic movement that there is still a place and a space for those of that tradition in the Church of England.''
Cardinal Basil Hume, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, commented: ''I warmly congratulate Bishop Hope on his appointment to the See of York.''
However, Dr Hope's appointment was condemned by such disparate groups as the Conservative Family Institute and OutRage! itself.
Mr Tatchell said it was ''scandalous'' for the Church to elevate a bishop ''who endorses anti-gay discrimination''.
Dr Adrian Rogers, director of the Conservative Family Institute, and prospective Tory parliamentary candidate for Exeter, said: ''It's a highly unsuitable choice given the turmoil in the Church of England about sexuality. This is yet another nail in the coffin of Christian faith.''