Gay priest Canon Jeffrey John withdrew his appointment as bishop of Reading after a six-hour meeting with the archbishop of Canterbury and his staff, during which it was alleged by London’s Daily Mail the staff applied the thumbscrews.

The decision drew the ire of Dr Colin Slee, dean of South-wark Cathedral, who told The Guardian the announcement is a sad day for the Church of England.

Canon John told me -¦ he would not voluntarily withdraw on his own initiative. However carefully phrased the official statements may be, I cannot believe that he has withdrawn in any other way, Dr Slee said.

Dr John stated his decision was made to avoid damaging the unity of the Church, although the withdrawal has not buried the issue.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams stated earlier this week some of the opposition expressed to Canon John’s appointment has been very unsavoury indeed. A number of letters I received displayed a shocking level of ignorance and hatred towards homosexual people.

In a statement after the meeting, however, Williams accepted John’s decision, stating the estrangement from the UK of churches in developing countries would be a very heavy price to pay. The church of Nigeria, the world’s largest Anglican congregation, had threatened to split from the UK church if Dr John was appointed.

The Church newspaper also alleged this week that if Dr John became bishop of Reading, the Church of England might have lost £200 million in income from evangelical parishes, funds withdrawn in protest against the appointment.

Earlier this week Dr Williams’s predecessor George Carey entered the fray, telling the UK’s Sunday Times he ordained two Anglican bishops whom he knew to be gay but was assured were celibate.

The global impact of the issue continues to deepen. Later this month gay Reverend V. Gene Robinson may be voted bishop of New Hampshire within the US Anglican Church (the Episcopal Church).

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