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Church of England demands gay, but not straight, priests be celibate in order to become bishops

Church of England demands gay, but not straight, priests be celibate in order to become bishops

Gay priests looking to move up in the Anglican Church must now undergo questioning into their sex lives.

In December, the House of Bishops ruled that priests who are in civil partnerships could become bishops, a decision that opened the doors for a number of openly gay priests who were already partnered to rise in the ranks of of the Church.

Now, according to a new policy put forth to the General Synod, the legislative body of the Church of England, gay clergymen who are partnered wishing to become a bishop in the Church of England must prove they are not sexually active. 

This new rule is directly targeted at openly gay priests, like Dr. John Jeffrey, who has been blocked from becoming the third-most powerful bishop in the Anglican Church because of conservative opposition. 

Were Jeffrey married to a woman, or allowed to legally marry his partner, his sex life would not be an issue, as the rules ‘make it clear that someone in a sexually active relationship outside marriage is not eligible for the episcopate or, indeed, other ordained ministry.’

By drawing the distinction of ‘outside of marriage,’ priests in committed civil partnerships are subject to a different standard than their straight counterparts, despite the new policy being submitted as a revision to the Equality Act of 2010, which is meant to protect against discrimination based on gender, marriage or civil partnership, or sexual orientation.

The Church’s new policy uses the protection of Holy Orders as justification for questioning priests about their sex lives, to ensure the potential bishop is ‘of virtuous conversation and good repute and such as to be a wholesome example and pattern to the flock of Christ’

According to the fifth page of the legal document submitted by the General Synod’s Secretary General William Fittall: ‘A person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry more generally.

‘It follows that clergy in civil partnerships who are living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate.

‘As in the case of divorce and remarriage, before a priest in a civil partnership can be considered for episcopal nomination the archbishop of the province in which he is serving will wish to satisfy himself, following discussions between the diocesan bishop and the clergyman concerned, that his life is, and will remain, consistent with the teaching of the Church of England.’

The new policy also protects the decision of the archbishop should he choose not to consider an openly gay priest: ‘Those responsible for making the nomination are entitled in law to reach a judgement on whether the fact that someone is in a civil partnership would prove an obstacle to nomination given the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of those worshipping members of the Church of England to whom the bishop concerned would (once appointed) be ministering.’