Church of England ends ban on gay bishops, says they must pledge celibacy
The Church of England has lifted a ban on gay male clergy who live with their partners from becoming bishops on condition they pledge to stay celibate, threatening to reignite an issue that splits the 80-million-strong globanglican community.
The issue of homosexuality has driven a rift between Western and African Anglicans since a Canadian diocese approved blessings for same-sex couples in 2002 and U.S. Anglicans in the Episcopal Church appointed an openly gay man as a bishop in 2003.
The Church of England, struggling to remain relevant in modern Britain despite falling numbers of believers, is already under pressure after voting narrowly last November to maintain a ban on women becoming bishops.
The church said the House of Bishops, one of its most senior bodies, had ended an 18-month moratorium on the appointment of gays in civil partnerships as bishops.
The decision was made in late December but received little attention until the church confirmed it on Friday.
Gay clergy in civil partnerships would be eligible for the episcopate – the position of bishop – if they make the pledge to remain celibate, as is already the case for gay deacons and priests.