The Church of England has created further divisions in their ranks in their announcement over gay bishops yesterday (4 January).
Conservative evangelicals have called it ‘divisive’, but several liberal groups have welcomed the move.
In a statement, Michael Lawson, chairman of the Evangelical Council of the Church of England, said: ‘At the very least [it] will spread confusion and at worst will be taken as an effort to conform to the spirit of the age.’
And the reverend Rod Thomas, a spokesman for Reform, an evangelical network in the Church of England described it as a ‘very worrying development’.
He said: ‘If someone were to be appointed who was in a civil partnership, that would be a very divisive step, both within England and across the Anglican Communion.
‘Although the Church says they would be required to declare that they are celibate as part of their appointment, the fact is that this is unenforceable.’
In 2003, the issue split the church when gay cleric Jeffrey John, who has always maintained his celibacy, became the Bishop of Reading.
He was forced to step down by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time, Rowan Williams.
Veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said he hoped the way is now open for John to be appointed as a bishop.
‘Any move to lift the ban on gay bishops in civil partnerships is a welcome move towards greater equality within the church,’ he said.
Speaking to Gay Star News, The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s Reverend Sharon Ferguson pointed out that both straight and gay men have been expected to be celibate while acting as a bishop, it is just no one believes a gay man would remain celibate.
She said: ‘This is one of the things that we have always questioned, if a straight person has always maintained they are celibate no proof needs to be given.
‘But when you are in a gay relationship, nobody believes you are celibate. It is clear discrimination.’
UK-based charity Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt said: ‘I’m sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the Church.’
Last year, the Church of England caused controversy when it announced they would not be allowing women, lesbian or otherwise, to become bishops.