Church of England to allow celibate gay bishops

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Episcopal Church in the United States elected the openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.
Image: janinsanfran.

The Church of England are planning to allow gay men who are celibate and in a civil partnership to become bishops according to an announcement made by the House of Bishops. This expands a previous decision made in 2005 allowing gay clergy with civil partners.

Whether gay clergyman would be allowed to become bishops became an issue in 2003 with the appointment of Rev Jeffrey John as Bishop of Reading. Jeffrey John was forced to step down from his position and now serves as Dean of St Albans Cathedral. In 2010, he was also a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark but was rejected, allegedly because of his sexual orientation.

Anglican evangelicals have suggested such a change ought to have been passed by the General Synod rather than the House of Bishops. Chris Sugden from Anglican Mainstream said the change coming from the House of Bishops "looks too much like salami-slicing away at the Church's teaching".

Former Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali raised questions about what celibacy means for a gay bishop: "Does the admission of those in civil partnerships to the episcopate, who state they are celibate, include those who were previously in actively homophile relationships including with their present partner? The House of Bishops statement does not elaborate on this point but it is crucial to an understanding of what celibacy might mean in this context."

In November, the General Synod voted against proposals to allow the appointment of women as bishops.