Church of England to allow gay bishops

The Church of England has dropped its prohibition on clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops.

The announcement, from the House of Bishops, would allow gay clergy to become bishops if they promise to be celibate.

The decision was announced before Christmas but spotlighted yesterday in the Church Times newspaper.

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A summary of business conducted by the House of Bishops when it met last month included that the Bishops “confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate”.

This amounts to a lifting of the moratorium on the appointment of clergy in civil partnerships as bishops, the Church Times said.

The 2005 statement on civil partnerships says the House of Bishops does not regard entering into civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, “provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality”.

Issues in Human Sexuality, compiled by the House of Bishops in 1991, is the Church’s definitive statement on same-sex relationships and states “the clergy cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships”.

The move comes after the General Synod controversially rejected proposals to allow women bishops in November.

Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for gay rights campaigners Stonewall, said: “I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the Church.”