Church Of England Will Let Partnered, Celibate Gay Men Be Bishops

WestminsterThe Anglican Church of England last night announced that after years of international debate, they will now allow gay men to become bishops. These gay men, however, must be in a civil partnership and also celibate.

"The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate," the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, said in a statement.

"The House believed it would be unjust to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline."

The New York Times offers more details:

The new policy was introduced in December, when the House of Bishops, a body within the church, published a list of recent decisions. One of those was to lift the ban on clergymen in civil partnerships becoming bishops. In 2005, the church ruled that people in civil partnerships could become clergy members, but the ruling did not apply to bishops.

The decision does not affect women in the church, who are not allowed to become bishops at all.

Baby steps?


  1. jpeckjr says

    How about this standard instead: Gay men can be bishops as long as they are married to women with whom they do not have sex. We’ve been doing it for years anyway, might as well make it official.

    Makes as much sense as “A gay man can be a bishop provided they are in a committed relationship recognized by the government but not the church, and aren’t having sex with anyone, including their partner.”

  2. Brian Renaud says

    This makes no sense on many levels. The celibate partner thing of course. But the timing is particularly strange, in the midst of the gay marriage debate in the UK, where the Anglican Church has voiced opposition, and the law for some reason prohibits the Anglican church from conducting marriages. Given the church’s anti-marriage posture I assume they won’t want their gay, celibate bishops to be married, but they also can’t be single. Maybe the UK government will leave the civil partnership category open after marriage passes, which will just be used for all those gay celibate bishops with a partner who don’t want to be married?

  3. Lymis says

    “Who do they think they’re kidding?”

    Probably the same people who used to buy the idea that all priests were straight and celibate to begin with.

    “Pay no attention to Father’s roommate!”

  4. Former Catholic Seminarian says

    “Well Dear, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is I did get that big promotion at work.”
    “And the bad news?”

  5. G.I. Joe says

    For a moment, I thought I had reading comprehension problems. Then I read the comments and either we’re all stupid or it is actually what it seems to be: Asking people to be in a civil union… but not have sex with their partner. Like, WTF.

    Way to promote honesty and openness in the clergy.

  6. JeffNYC says

    Thanks, I guess, but it’s a little creepy. How do they expect to monitor this? It’s like making them into castrati.

    Do blowjobs count? Jerking off together?

    Are the two men allowed to kiss? Are they allowed to hug? Are they allowed to dance together? Hold hands?

    Must they sleep in separate beds, like Lucy and Ricky?

    How will this new ruling be measured?

  7. gregory brown says

    The Orthodox churches could provide a better model(if they weren’t so set against gay people): priests can marry, but anybody on the path to higher offices can’t. This Anglican position is simply ludicrous.

  8. john patrick says

    Only “celibate” men are allowed to be priests in the RC Church. And we have all seen how well the “celibate” part of that requirement has turned out. Of course one of the definitions of the word “celibacy” is abstention from marriage, so I guess if gay bishops are only civil partnered, they are not married and thus celibate from that definition of the word.

    But why they would be required to be in a civil partnership in order to ordained a bishop is beyond me. That would be like saying all RC bishops must be in a civil partnership with a woman, but they are not allowed to have sex. Do they really expect people in a committed relationship to never have sex? And how do they check?

  9. Caliban says

    WHAT?! That’s so ridiculous I almost did a spit-take.

    The good news is it’s so patently stupid that many will have the same reaction and be reminded what a niggling and moronic thing organized religion really is.

    If that’s the best they can come up with, arguing over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin would have been more productive, less of a shoddy half-measure spewed from the necrotic bowels of a religious bureaucracy staffed by half-wits and dunderheads.

    The bad news is that compared to the Catholic church this is space-age modernity.

    One thing I’ve never understood though. It’s my perception that in general women tend to be more religious than men. (Maybe it’s just that men talk about it less?) So why aren’t they more upset by the blatant misogyny of organized religion, which seems to believe they are more intrinsically “wicked” than men, constitutionally unfit for service? Devout women in these temples of male privilege and superiority are the equivalent of gay Republicans. (Or gay Anglicans for that matter.)

  10. Charles Sublett says

    The definition of “celibacy” is “unmarried”, not “chaste”, although the two terms seem to have been commingled. It is therefore ludicrous to be in a “civil partnership”, the only marriage equivalent available, and be “celibate”. If what they want is bishops who are partnered but chaste, they’re idiots. Note that the Episcopal Church in the United States, the arm of the Anglican Communion here, allows gay bishops who aren’t partnered or chaste. I’ve lost track of where they stand on female bishops, but I believe those are also a possibility in the U.S. This makes the Episcopal Church very unpopular with other members of the Anglican Communion.

  11. Gigi says

    “These gay men, however, must be in a civil partnership and also celibate.”

    Oh gee, thanks! Will they force the men to wear chastity belts? Put surveillance cameras in their rooms? Maybe take weekly lie-detector tests to determine whether or not they’re maintaining their vow of celibacy? What they’re doing is forcing these men – this same-sex, married couple – to lie. Considering that many are already lying when they tell you that Satan and Hell exist, perhaps this is a win-win.

    Who would be so desperate to serve the Church of England that they’d agree to such a thing?

  12. Casey says

    Yet more proof of the ridiculousness of religion. I never cease to be amazed at the brilliance and yet utter stupidity of humankind.

  13. gregory brown says

    One advantage in having a civil union relationship is that the State will pay the cost of partner benefits. It’s one of the perks of an Established Church. And if the bishops are in supposedly monogamous (and uber-chaste) pairings, the risk of sex scandal could be diminished. It’s a racket.

  14. yvr man says

    Spoiler alert … this article is misleadingly written. To clarify … the CofE isn’t saying a gay man must be in a civil partnership to be considered for appointment to Bishop, but if he is that he must be ‘celibate’. A single gay man is allowed to be a bishop … providing he’s celibate also.

    Okay, I agree that his is all completely insane in any case, but if you want a clearer picture of the whole hot mess have a look at the PinkNews report on the issue.

  15. too cute to be catholic says

    OK, let’s clear this up. The only time the bishop can have intimate contact with his partner is when they rent a two-man horse costume and the partner is the front half of the horse and the bishop is the horses’s ass. Got it?

  16. says

    like how the LDS will welcome gays as long as they don’t “act upon” their gayness, with the exception of joining that big ol’Mormon Show Choir.

  17. Dennis McLeod says

    You have to be joking, this is like saying a married man can be a Bishop as long as he stays away from his wife. Is it any wonder the people are leaving the Church. This rules in line with Biblical teaching now lets see, is that the one where a marriage is between one man and one women? Or is that the one where it say a Bishop must have just one “wife”? I don’t think so.

  18. says

    Hey, now there’s some consolation in your sexless marriage – career advancement!

    Sorry, ladies, even a sexless marriage can’t buy you a bishopric.

  19. DC Arnold says

    Reminds me of when The Smiths hit it big and Morrissey was gay but celibate, didn’t make sense then either.

  20. says

    “Baby steps?” Hardly. Weren’t you paying attention, Andy? This is the same crap they through out there 10 years ago when all the controversy surrounding Gene Robinson hit. The conservatives said he could only be ordained a bishop if he remained celibate, which came after they realized their threats of schism weren’t working to block it. In the end, Robinson was elected to the office by a 20 vote lead and no mention of him remaining celibate.

  21. Diogenes Arktos says

    For the CofE this really is baby steps. They also just allowed divorced priests to become bishops. They also just defeated the possibility of women bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury is trying to maintain the Anglican Communion as best he can. I hardly envy the position and the ridiculousness of the positions he has adopted. This is from a member of The Episcopal Church.

    @Charles Sublett: The possibility of women bishops in The Episcopal Church has existed since the ordination of women in 1976. The current US primate, the Presiding Bishop, is a woman – much to the annoyance of much of the Anglican Communion. OTOH – in practice an openly gay cleric of any level must be preferably celibate or in a partnered relationship.

    @Mommine Dammit: Each branch of the Anglican Communion has a certain amount of autonomy from the rest. That’s why the US church is so far ahead of the rest of the world and the Ugandan church is so far behind. The threat of schism has manifested itself in various ways. Certain national churches flat out have said that they are out of communion with the US. There is also a complicated relationship between certain national churches outside the US and dissident parishes and dioceses physically located in the US. This latter also meant that +Gene Robinson wasn’t the only bishop excluded from Lambeth.

  22. Diogenes Arktos says

    The Anglican Communion has traditionally expected gay clergy to be “celibate” by marriages of convenience;-)

    One of the popular arguments in the US about consenting to +Gene Robinson’s election was to stop being delusional about gays and forcing them to lie by being married to an opposite-sex spouse. It’s a pity most of the rest of the world isn’t there yet.