CofE drops opposition to gay bishops in civil partnerships


Prebendary Rod Thomas says the first bishop in a civil partnership will cause a "furore"

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

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

Conservative evangelical Anglicans say they will fight the move in the Church's ruling general synod.

The issue has split the church since 2003 amid a row over gay cleric Jeffrey John becoming Bishop of Reading.

Mr John, now Dean of St Albans, was forced to withdraw from the role shortly after having initially accepted it, following protests from traditionalists.

He was also a candidate for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 but was rejected. Evidence emerged that this was because of his sexual orientation.

The Church of England has already agreed to allow people in civil partnerships to become clergy, provided they promised they would remain celibate.

In July last year, the House of Bishops (HoB) said it would review this decision, made in 2005, to decide whether it could also relate to bishops.

In the list of decisions at its latest meeting in December, it has now confirmed that those conditions could now extend to bishops.

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

Fiercely resisted

The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said on behalf of the House of Bishops that it would be "unjust" to exclude anyone for consideration for the role of bishop who was "seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline".

He said: "All candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the Church of England.

Jeffrey John with  Bishop The Right Rev Christopher Herbert Mr John is now the Dean of St Albans

"But these, along with the candidate's suitability for any particular role for which he is being considered, are for those responsible for the selection process to consider in each case."

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said that, given the tension surrounding the issue of sexuality, the Church's decision to allow men in civil partnerships to become bishops represented a major concession and one with considerable symbolic significance.

Conservative evangelicals have warned they would be willing to bring in bishops from overseas to avoid serving under a gay bishop.

The Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of the evangelical group Reform, said the idea of appointing people in civil partnerships as bishops had not been agreed or debated by the wider Church.

"That would be a major change in church doctrine and therefore not something that can be slipped out in the news, it is something that has got to be considered by the general synod."

He said there would be great divisions in the Church if clergy in a civil partnership were appointed as a bishop.

'Loving relationships'

Canon Chris Sugden from Anglican Mainstream said: "Since a decision to move from the current position would be a grave departure from the Church's doctrine and discipline; it should be made by Bishops in Synod not by Bishops alone. Otherwise it looks too much like salami-slicing away at the Church's teaching. "

The Rev Colin Coward is director of the Changing Attitude group, which campaigns for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the Church. He said the church "has issued a statement which will be laughed at by the majority in this country."

Insisting on celibacy was wrong, he went on: "Jesus, the Holy Spirit, advocates deeply loving faithful committed relationships in which people express their love sexually, and that is Biblical teaching."

Worldwide, anger over the appointment of actively gay men and women as bishops, especially in the US, has stimulated the Gafcon movement, through which conservative Anglican provinces in Africa and elsewhere have begun to function independently of the official Anglican Communion.

Gafcon has condemned those who preach a "false gospel" which "claims God's blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony".


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  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    When, in the bible or elsewhere, has God ever accepted human morality as the guiding principle?

    You may say the bible is wrong/corrupted/irrelevant or God doesn't exist. Then the gay clergy debate is a meaningless argument for a confused group.

    However, if the bible is an authority and God does exist, he probably doesn't take his moral cues from humanity.

    Therefore it is a pointless argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    When Sikhs are forced to be treated equally under the Road Traffic Act (1972) then homosexuals can be treated equally within the Church of England.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    How is the church defining celibate if you are in a legal gay civil partnership? how about bisexual men in gay civil partnerships? can they see single women, no problem? after all a civil partnership isn't a marriage, is it? You couldn't make it up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Once upon a time the church made the rules, and people fell in line.

    Now governments make the rules and those rules are clear.

    No discrimination in any walk of life based on gender or sexual orientation.

    Why is the church above the law?

    And making an appointment conditional on celibacy? Oh, please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    Disestablishment of the church from the state is the obvious solution if the church has such a problem about social equality in the twenty first century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    This is so absurd that it's hilarious and destined to be laughed at in years to come.

    They can be homosexual but they have to promise not to do any homosexual acts? Doesn't that kind of defeat the object?

    Has anyone heard of the Westborough Baptist Church or seen what they stand for?
    I for one would really like to be a part a society who's ideology isn't close to those lunatics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    I am "Hetro", and I find the CoE's pronouncement to be an insult to Gay people.Feel free to correct me, but you can be part of our church if you deny what you are, and repent, seems a bit Spanish Inquisition to me.
    The church would have been better saying nowt, than this.Don't judge people on who they sleep with, JESUS didn't so why should they feel to twist his teachings.

  • Comment number 403.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    the church (Episcopalian in the US) is becoming more acceoting of gay clergypersons. This does not mean that we accept gay clergypersons but merely have to go along with the modern day life in which we live. Here in Sacramento we now have a divorced/.remarried bishop. clergy are meant to be leaders...Carol

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    What if you're a man, who's had a sex change, but still into women (so kind of a lesbian, but kind of straight). Could you become a Bishop then? And would you have to be celibate?

  • Comment number 400.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    224. Luther
    "Real Christians DO believe the Bible - whether we like it or not - and follow it."

    No you don't. Would you have gay people executed? Would you kill your recalcitrant child? Would you have women banned from public life? If the answer to any of these is "no", then you don't believe the Bible and you don't follow it.

    And thank God for that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    The devil’s wagging his tail with pleasure.

    He was already adequately represented in the church, but he told me that this was an unexpected bonus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    God doesn't like gay people (according to the manual). Is it really any wonder why his crew has reservations about putting gay people in charge.
    There ideas are from the dark ages. They pick & choose which word of god to follow & which to ignore. They just happen to like the man not laying with another man one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    Once again the CofE has shot itself in the foot by ignoring the teachings of the new testament and the opinions of the vast majority of it's members just to appease a tiny vocal minority that haven't read past the Torah in the bible and conveniently ignore EVERYTHING Jesus taught us, about love and respect for our fellow humans. The people who seek to persecute others are NOT Christians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Secular world and religion do things differently. The Church does not prosecute and imprison the guilty. But tells instead those who have broke the rules of the Bible to repent and not sin again. The Bible has made homosexuality a sin. So, why should people belong to Christianity if the cannot accept the laws of the Bible, when no one is going to prosecute them for doing wrong?

  • Comment number 394.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    It's like something out of the Middle Ages.
    Oh, it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    Reminds me of an observation by Maya Angelou:

    When I hear people call themselves "Christians" I look at them and think what already!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    So the C of E is now happy to ordain a (celibate) gay man as a bishop, but not a woman (married, single, celibate or not). So what is a greater "sin" in the eyes of the church - being born gay or being born female?


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