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Church of England clears way for gay, celibate bishops
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who leads the Church of England.
June 20th, 2011
06:29 AM ET

Church of England clears way for gay, celibate bishops

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

The Church of England cannot refuse to appoint bishops simply because they are gay, but it can insist that they remain celibate, the denomination's lawyers have told it.

It would be wrong for boards appointing bishops to take account "of the fact that a candidate had identified himself as of gay sexual orientation," says the legal advice, which the Church of England published Monday.

But church rules do bar anyone in a sexual relationship outside marriage from becoming a bishop - which implies that a gay man can become a bishop only if he is celibate.

The compromise is unlikely to satisfy either conservatives or liberals in the global church, which is deeply torn over the role of women and gay men in church leadership.

Canon Chris Sugden, a leading voice in the conservative group Anglican Mainstream, told CNN that the insistence on celibacy made sense, drawing a distinction between orientation and practice.

"There's no discrimination on the basis of orientation, nor should there be," he said, arguing that it was behavior that mattered.

"This applies in many areas - gambling, drink, marital infidelity," he said. "One wouldn't condone the promotion of someone who advocates adultery."

He said gay candidates for bishop posts would have to be honest about whether they were celibate.

"The whole issue is, are the clergy giving honest answers to their bishops in this? Some clergy have said they won't answer that, which raises a question of honesty," he said.

He argued it was reasonable to ask candidates for posts as bishops whether they were having gay sex, adding: "It's just as appropriate as to ask them whether they have a mistress."

The Anglican Communion - of which the Church of England is the English member - is the world's third-largest Christian denomination, with between 75 million and 80 million members in the United States, Canada, England, Australia, Africa and elsewhere.

The legal advice, dated December 2010, comes in response to Britain's Equality Act, parts of which came into force in October. It was published ahead of the meeting of the church's governing body, the General Synod, next week.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Anglican • Gay rights • United Kingdom

soundoff (565 Responses)
  1. MN Barranco

    Good united kingdom regulation every time a car wreck occurs, the driving force will be allowed to register for settlement with regard to health-related charges, lost wages along with damages to the car supplied your accident ...Wypadki Uk

    January 31, 2012 at 5:50 am |
  2. Ray Whitworth

    For gods sake you two get a room and sort your sens out!

    June 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  3. Reality

    Why do we care what a church founded by a womanizing, serial killer says about anything in the realm of human conduct?+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    June 21, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      So you don't care that the church of England has covered up child abuse because you don't agree with it's origin? Jehovah Witness, Jewish, Pentecostal etc etc etc have ALL covered it up. As have schools. hospitals. dentists and the Scouts' movement. It's theCHILDREN that count – not the section of society that indulges. Id be happy for the Catholic priests to be charged and punished if the others were too. I can't stand unfairness in any shape or form.

      June 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  4. Rainer Braendlein

    We should consider that nobody is forced to join the Christian Church. When somebody joins the Christian Church, he should accept her rules. No gayness within the Church! Outside secular society decides.

    June 21, 2011 at 1:31 pm |
    • Yo!

      That's why there are churches that accept gays to worship and marry. You're clueless on this subject, get an education.

      June 21, 2011 at 1:48 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      Yo! said " That's why there are churches that accept gays to worship and marry. You're clueless on this subject, get an education.",,,, If a church accepts gays to marry, then they are not a Christian Church. Shows you are clueless and need to get an education yourself.

      June 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • GodPot

      "nobody is forced to join the Christian Church" Sad that this was not always so.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Yo!

      "If a church accepts gays to marry, then they are not a Christian Church. Shows you are clueless and need to get an education yourself."

      Well thankfully there are here in the US and in other countries. Shows how clueless you still are.

      June 24, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  5. Marie Kidman

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSvqMBj-ig&w=640&h=390]

    June 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  6. Oh Yeah

    Serious defect. LMAO. You're clueless.

    Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals agree that ho-mo-se-xuality is not an illness, a mental disorder, or an emotional problem. More than 35 years of objective, well-designed scientific research has shown that ho-mo-se-xuality, in and itself, is not as-sociated with mental disorders or emotional or social problems. Ho-mo-se-xuality was once thought to be a mental illness because mental health professionals and society had biased information.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • GodPot

      Well theres the problem... "objective, well-designed scientific research" doesn't sit well with Christians, they prefer "biased, poorly-designed non scientific conjecture" to come up with their view on whether it's a choice or not.

      June 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.