RELIGION
06/20/2011 02:14 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

Church Of England Affirms Celibacy Requirement For Gay Bishops

The Church of England will not refuse a promotion to the rank of bishop on the basis of sexual orientation as long as the candidate maintains celibacy. In a paper released Monday, the Church of England clarified their position on homosexual clergy in relation to the United Kingdom's Equality Act.

The Telegraph highlighted the key passages from the legal guidance, released in anticipation of next month's meeting of the Church's General Synod:

"Someone in a sexually active relationship outside marriage is not eligible for the episcopate or other ordained ministry."

"There is, by contrast, no corresponding statement of the position of the Church of England that declares that a celibate person in a civil partnership cannot be considered for appointment as a bishop."

The position makes an attempt to distinguish between inclination and action, CNN reports:

Canon Chris Sugden, a leading voice in the conservative group Anglican Mainstream, told CNN that the insistence on celibacy made sense, drawing a distinction between orientation and practice.

"There's no discrimination on the basis of orientation, nor should there be," he said, arguing that it was behavior that mattered.

However, the BBC highlighted the mixed reaction to the release, emphasizing that cementing the celibacy requirement only reframes the same standard of discrimination.

Reverend Canon Giles Goddard of Inclusive Church said the move was a cop-out.

"Unless [the Church] is able accept clergy in relationships on the same terms as marriage this sore won't be healed," he said.

The confirmation of the Church's policy would be "nothing new", he added.

"In a way it's a backwards step - it's firming up this celibacy requirement," he said.

A recent op-ed by Lesley Fellows in The Guardian, railed against the hypocrisy of the Church's position, and the many loopholes the policy leaves for continued discrimination. The document clarifies that a candidate's promotion may be denied if their sexual orientation is deemed to be an obstacle to unity in their diocese.

Included in the release are several "relevant factors" to be taken into account when considering a candidate's status:

• whether the candidate had always complied with the Church's teachings on same-sex sexual activity;

• whether he was in a civil partnership;

• whether he was in a continuing civil partnership with a person with whom he had had an earlier same-sex sexual relationship;

• whether he had expressed repentance for any previous same-sex sexual activity; and

• whether (and to what extent) the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question, the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion.

Read the full text of the document here.