THE row over the appointment of gay priest Jeffrey John as Dean of St Albans escalated this week with one church openly rebelling by refusing to pay its diocesan tax.

Holy Trinity Lyonsdown, an evangelical church in New Barnet, is withholding its yearly parish quota of around £33,600 in protest at the appointment of Dr John.

Each church pays a stipend to the diocese which then redistributes some of the money to enable churches to pay their clergy and costs. Anything above that is kept by the diocese.

Lyonsdown's decision means it will pay its own clergy and donate the extra funds believed to be around £5,500 to a charity that helps gay Christians live a celibate life.

Earlier this month the Diocesan Evangelical Alliance warned that some churches would withhold their quotas but Lyonsdown is the first to confirm it was taking the action.

The church's vicar, the Reverend Charles Dobbie said: "We have suspended the quota in its entirety with immediate effect and until the situation changes for the better.

"It is our expression of protest against the diocese for putting in place someone who is in a position of considerable influence and authority but is so far outside the standards of Anglican orthodoxy."

Rev Dobbie said his church's quarrel was not with Dr John but with Bishop of St Albans the Rt Rev Christopher Herbert for approving the appointment.

Bishop Christopher labelled Holy Trinity's decision "misdirected" and said it would not help resolve differing views.

He added: "Where honestly held views are at variance, the action by Lyonsdown does nothing constructively to carry forward the discussion.

"We need to listen deeply to each other and not take precipitate action.

"I suggest that the way forward now is to work for greater understanding while acknowledging our differences rather than making public gestures of interest."

Meanwhile, a group of 47 clergy in the St Albans diocese have this week signed a letter of support for Dr John, describing him as a "noted teacher and theologian" who would be a great asset to the diocese.

The statement adds: "We see nothing in his appointment, his lifestyle or his views that contradict scripture, tradition and reason and hope that in the long run those who find the appointment hard will be able to engage in a sensible and rational discussion of the issue of homosexuality, which we do not see as one to impair the unity of our diocese."

The group also praised Bishop Christopher for having the courage to approve the appointment and called on others to respect his authority.

Dr John will be officially installed as dean on July 2.