Church of England to allow gay clergy to become bishops
Gay clergy will now be allowed to become bishops in the Church of England however they will have to meet certain conditions including repenting for past homosexual acts and promising to remain celibate.
Lesbian clergy though will remain barred from becoming bishops with the General Synod deciding last November to continue to prevent all women from attaining the position.
The decision on the eligibility of gay male clergy was made by the House of Bishops in mid-December and made only public late last week however conservative groups within the church have vowed to overturn it.
The ruling was reached following years of controversy after Jeffrey John (pictured), the dean of St Albans who has been in a long-term gay but celibate relationship with another clergyman, was forced to resign as bishop of Reading in 2003 and then looked over as bishop of Southwark in 2010.
The bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said the House of Bishops saw the ruling as an extension of conditions the church introduced in 2005 to allow people in civil partnerships to become clergy.
“The house believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline,” James told The Guardian.
“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. 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.”
Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of the evangelical group Reform, said he and others would fight the move.
“It’s a very worrying development,” he told reporters.
“If someone were to be appointed who was in a civil partnership, that would be a very divisive step, both within England and across the Anglican Communion.”
Under plans for marriage equality laws announced by the British Government late last year, the Church of England and Wales will remain exempt from legislation that will allow same-sex marriage ceremonies to take place in religious institutions that wish to provide them.
Image: Chris Harris (The Times)