Church of England to review position on gay bishops

The Church of England is to review whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops.

The review will reconsider a statement issued by the House of Bishops in 2005 “in the light of subsequent developments”.

Speaking on behalf of the House of Bishops, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James said that a number of clergy were now in civil partnerships and that the clergy pension scheme had since been amended to improve the provision for surviving civil partners of clergy who had died.

He said: “More recently Parliament has decided that civil partnerships may be registered on religious premises where the relevant religious authority has consented.

“The review will need to take account of this changing scene.”

A statement by the House of Bishops added: “The House believes there is a theological task to be done to clarify further our understanding of the nature and status of these partnerships.”

The House of Bishops has asked that clergy in civil partnerships are not nominated for episcopal appointment while the review is being undertaken in order to “avoid pre-empting the outcome”.

The review is due to be completed in 2012.

“The review will include examination of whether priests in civil partnerships should be eligible for appointment as bishops," said Bishop James.

“The 2005 statement was silent on this issue and, while the relevant legal background was analysed in a recently published legal office note, the House acknowledges its responsibility to address the policy issue.”

The bishops have also committed to producing a consultation document on same-sex relationships in 2013.

Bishop James said: “The House’s decision is motivated by a desire to help shape the continuing debate constructively and not by any view about what the outcome should be.”