Celibate gay men in civil partnerships could be ordained as Church of England bishops.
Legal advice is due to be published this week saying homosexual clergy in civil partnerships can become bishops, as long as they are celibate.
Only Those In A Celibate Civil Partnership Need Apply
You read that right: if you are gay and in a civil partnership, you can become a priest or a bishop in the Church of England, but only if you are celibate. The mind boggles as to how the authorities would go about verifying that two men in a civil partnership are not sexually active.
The move is in response to the Equality Act, which came into force between October 2010 and April 2011, and which protects from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.
In spite of the timidity of this approach, the decision risks deepening divisions over gay clergy, which threaten to split the Anglican Communion worldwide.
Church Can Exclude People In A Sexually Active Civll Partnership
From The Guardian:
The legislation means employers cannot discriminate against someone on the grounds of sexual orientation, but provides for a “genuine occupational requirement” to be imposed.
This effectively allows the Church to exclude someone in a sexually active civil partnership, or to impose a requirement relating to sexual orientation to “avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers”.
Therefore while the note says “a person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry more generally”, candidates can be required to be celibate.
The guidance says that someone in a sexual relationship outside marriage cannot be ordained, but there is no such rule for a celibate person in a civil partnership.
The issue of whether openly gay men should be ordained is highly contentious in the Church of England; last year Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams declared that he had no problem with gay clergy as long as they were celibate.
Interesting logic, Dr. Williams.
A Little Background
Gene Robinson became the U.S. Episocpal Church’s first openly gay bishop in 2003, in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and at the time, it dominated the headlines around the world. African bishops condemned his consecration, and evangelicals in the Church of England warned that it would cause an irreparable split.
Also in the U.S., Mary Glasspool, a partnered lesbian, became a bishop in Los Angeles in 2010. At the time, Rowan WIlliams warned that the American Church’s decision to elect her could threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion.
In terms of the UK, there is legislation currently under review that could result in woman bishops by 2014, although it faces many hurdles before then.
Not As Dire As Archbishop Timothy Dolan
It can be said that the situation with the Church of England is a marginal improvement over the attitude of Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who is fighting hard to defeat the New York Marriage Equality bill, just one vote away from passing in Albany. Dolan has been fierce in his opposition to same-sex marriage, portraying it as a perversity against nature.
While at first glance this proposed legislation by the Church of England looks like a move forward, it is not. Since no restrictions such as celibacy apply to heterosexual clergy, this move is nothing more than patronising discrimination, disguised to look like equality. Shame on you, Church of England.
Photo Credit: prayitno via Creative Commons
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