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Gay clergy to be considered for Bishop nominations

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 are expected to fiercely resist the development in the synod.

Revd Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform, an organisation against gay bishops tells Premier's Des Busteed the issue will split the church:

The Church of England has relased the following statement on the issue in the wake of the change:

The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, today issued the following statement on behalf of the House of Bishops of the Church of England:

 "The House of Bishops' Pastoral Statement on Civil Partnerships issued in 2005 did not address specifically whether clergy who entered such partnerships should be considered for the episcopate. What the House has now done, following the work undertaken by the group chaired by the Bishop of Sodor and Man set up last year, is to look at the matter again last month.

"The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.

"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. 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."

The Revd Sharon Ferguson from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement who's in a civil partnership tells Premier she's giving the decision a cautious welcome:

The change follows the release a summary of decisions taken by the House of Bishops at its latest meeting in December.

The statement read:

"The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England's approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group's work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It 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."

This appears to amount to a lifting of the moratorium on the appointment of clergy in civil partnerships as bishops.

The 2005 statement on civil partnerships states:

"The House of Bishops does not regard entering into civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality."

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