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Church Of England Allows Gay Clergy Members To Become Bishops

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The Church of England has lifted a ban on gay members of the clergy from becoming bishops.

According to the announcement from the Church's House of Bishops, clergy who are in civil partnerships but promise to remain celibate will no longer be banned from being bishops.

The issue has divided the church after Jeffrey John, who is gay, was forced to step down as Bishop of Reading in 2003.

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Jeffrey John was forced to step down as Bishop of Reading in 2003

Mr John, who was also rejected as a candidate to become Bishop of Southwark in 2010, was reportedly considering challenging the ban in court.

Reverend Colin Coward, of Changing Attitudes, which campaigns for the inclusion of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people in the Anglican Communion, told The Huffington Post UK there may not be "serious intent" in the announcement.

"It's nominally good news but I don't trust it," he said. "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.

"The good news could be that there is positive intent and it is designed to enable Jeffery John to be appointed. But my overall impression is that there has been deliberate obstruction in the announcement."

He added that no-one would question if someone unmarried who became a Bishop was having sex - but gay bishops in civil partnerships will have to promise to be celibate.

"I think asking people not to have sex is an absurd expectation. there is a terrible dishonesty here in that I suspect at least half the members of the House of Bishops already appoint [unmarried] clergy in sexual relationships."

Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, has previously said the Church of England should have "no truck with any form of homophobia," the website Pink News reports.

Ruth Hunt, director of public affairs for gay rights campaigners Stonewall, said: "We're sure many Anglicans will be happy to hear of the Church's latest epiphany on gay clergy, although many lesbians will be disappointed that they remain unable to serve as bishops.

"I'm sure celibate gay men will be thrilled by this exciting new job opportunity, if perhaps somewhat perplexed as to how it will be policed by the Church."

The Rev Rod Thomas, a spokesman for Reform, an evangelical network in the Church of England, said allowing gay bishops was "very worrying."

"To appoint someone in a civil partnership as a bishop would be seen by the world at large as appointing someone who is in an active gay relationship, and undermine the Church's teaching on the exclusiveness of sex within marriage."

Last year the Church of England announced it could pursue legislation to allow women bishops at the next meeting of its council.

It is understood that the legislation cannot be the same as the laws recently rejected by the Synod. The House of Bishops also need to approve looking at the mater.

"This is aspirational on the part of the Archbishop's council," a CoE spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK at the time, adding that The House of Bishops needed to agree and the legislation needed to be decided.

Justin Welby has also said he believes there will be female bishops in the Church at one stage.