Church of England OKs Gay Bishops (If Celibate!)
Officials of the Church of England announced on Jan. 4 that they will allow gay clergy in civil partnerships (similar to civil unions in the U.S.) to become bishops but only if they remain celibate, the British newspaper the Guardian reports.
The House of 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," a statement summery read. The House of Bishops, which made the decision, added that they would not offer more guidance on civil partnership before the final report.
Religion News Service quoted Graham James, the bishop of Norwich, as saying that the bishops agreed it would be "unjust" if gay men were not allowed to become bishops if they were "seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline.
"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," he added. "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."
Church leaders approved of the change on Dec. 20. But it wasn’t made public until last week, when a BBC correspondent noticed it in a report published in the Church Times.
Many disagreed with the change, including several Evangelical Anglicans, who made up a significant and growing part of the church. As RNS reported, the move is "a major shift for the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which had already weathered a major schism when Anglicanism’s American branch, the Episcopal Church, consecrated openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in 2003."
Robinson, 65, became the first out-bishop of the Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican Church in the United States. His ordination and subsequent moves by the U.S. church toward informally sanctioning same-sex union led conservative Episcopalian congregations to break way from the main church in the U.S. Robinson himself retired on Jan. 5, the Associated Press reported.