The Church of England Still Won't Let Its Gay Bishops Have Sex

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On Friday the Church of England announced that it's decided that to allow gay clergy to be elevated to bishop, even if they are in a civil partnership — provided they aren't actually having sex with anyone. The ruling affirms a 2005 decision that allowed gay civil partners to become lower-ranking clergy, while extending the same rule to bishops.

Unlike the Catholic Church, Anglicans do not require celibacy of heterosexual clergy and many bishops and priests are married. The Episcopal Church, which is the Anglican denomination practiced in the Untied States, has ordained gay bishops and even allowed for the blessing of gay marriage where it is legal. However, the Anglican Church will still require celibacy of gay clerics, as well as atonement for past homosexual behavior.

The other snag with the new Anglican ruling is that despite removing the ban on gay clergy members over a decade ago, the chance of one of them actually reaching the status of bishop is basically zero. Only one openly gay cleric has ever been promoted to bishop in the Church of England, and he was forced to resign the post before he ever started, due to massive infighting among church members. An attempt to renominate him for Bishop of Southwark in 2010 was rejected outright.

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So while today's ruling basically confirms that a civil partnership won't be an automatic block to becoming a bishop, sexual orientation remains a pretty high bar to get over in the Church. Reverend Colin Coward, who supports the inclusion of homosexual and transgender people in the Church said today, "I don't believe that there is serious intent in the announcement and I won't until the moment when somebody who is in a civil partnership is appointed as a bishop."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.