The Church of England on Friday (Jan. 4) confirmed that it has dropped its prohibition on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops -- but only if they agree to remain celibate. Speaking on behalf of the Church's House of Bishops, Bishop of Norwich Graham Jones said in a statement: "The House of Bishops 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. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task." Jones added that the bishops agreed it would be "unjust" to exclude gay men from becoming bishops if they were otherwise "seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline." Although the bishops approved the change on Dec. 20, it wasn't noticed until Friday when the BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, read it in a report published in the Church Times. The move represents a major shift for the mother church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, which had already weathered a major schism when Anglicanism's American branch, the Episcopal Church, consecrated openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in New Hampshire in 2003.
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