Clergymen have threatened not to recognise the Bishop of Oxford, Dr Richard Harries, as a member of the Church of England if he appoints a homosexual as Bishop of Reading.

The Evangelical Group of the Diocese of Oxford have said if Bishop Harries proceeds with his appointment of Canon Jeffrey John, he, and the leadership of the diocese will be separating from the Anglican Church.

The leader of the Anglican church in Nigeria had threatened to split with the Church of England if Dr John, pictured, was consecrated

A group of 80 clergy and 20 leading lay-preachers of the Diocese of Oxford, including leaders of most of the largest churches, has written to the Bishop of Oxford in opposition to the appointment.

In a statement released yesterday, the group said the appointment of Canon John, who describes himself as a celibate homosexual, is against the teachings of the Bible.

Bishop Harries responded to the statement by saying: "Obviously I am sad that the nomination of Jeffrey John to be the next Bishop of Reading has proved divisive. In my judgement he had, and has, the gifts needed for the job at this particular time." The statement by the evangelical clergy opposing the appointment was signed by:

Dr Philip Giddings, licensed lay minister, Greyfriars Church, Reading; Rev Piers Bickersteth, rector of Arborfield and Barkham, secretary of the Oxford Diocesan Evangelical fellowship; Rev John Chorlton, Area Dean of Oxford; Rev Charlie Cleverly, rector of St Aldate's, Oxford; Rev Dr Andrew Goddard, tutor in Christian Ethics, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford; Rev Paul Roberts, team vicar of St James's, Woodley and chairman of the Oxford Diocesan Renewal Fellowship; Rev Vaughan Roberts, Rector, St Ebbe's, Oxford; Rev Canon Roger Salisbury, team rector of the Great Chesham and Area Dean of Amersham; Rev Canon Dr Vinay Samuel, licensed priest in the Diocese of Oxford; Rev Canon Dr Chris Sugden, licensed priest in the Diocese of Oxford; Rev Paul Williams, Rector of St James', Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire; Rev Andrew Winfield-Digby, vicar of St Andrew's, Oxford.