The Church of England said Friday that it will allow gay men to become bishops, putting it closer to its sister Episcopal Church in the United States but at odds with many conservatives in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The House of Bishops put out a statement confirming that gay clergy in civil partnerships will be eligible for appointment as bishops, if they remain celibate. The announcement followed a working group’s review of Church of England rules governing civil partnerships.
In July 2011, the House of Bishops announced a review of a statement published six years earlier, which allowed for clergy to be in civil partnerships but effectively put a moratorium on gay bishops. After the review, the group of bishops decided that “clergy in civil partnerships and in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate,” the Rev. Graham Jones, bishop of Norwich, said in a statement Friday.
Here is a link to the official statement
Statement Regarding Clergy in a Civil Partnership as Candidates for the Episcopatehttp://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2013/01/statement-regarding-clergy-in-a-civil-partnership-as-candidates-for-the-episcopate.aspx
Gay deacons and priests currently have to take a pledge of celibacy. The decision to allow gay bishops seems to build upon that rule. However, conservatives in the Church of England are unhappy with this change.
Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said the church’s move on gay bishops would provoke further dispute.
“It will be much more divisive than what we have seen over women bishops. If you thought that was a furor, wait to see what will happen the first time a bishop in a civil partnership is appointed,” he told BBC television.
(NB: Reform describes itself as “an Anglican evangelical network which works for the promotion of the gospel. It believes the Church will be more effective in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ the more it follows the teaching of the Bible. There are currently 1700 members of Reform, both lay and ordained.”)