Attorneys for the Church of England say that a gay priest in a civil partnership add is living a celibate life may still not qualify for an episcopal appointment if his provincial archbishop, diocesan bishop or nominating committee is not convinced.
It is not clear what the suggested extra scrutiny would look like.
The guidance says that it follows from the House of Bishops’ statement in December, that “clergy in civil partnerships who are living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality can be considered as candidates for the episcopate.”
It goes on to say that “before a priest in a civil partnership can be considered for episcopal nomination, the archbishop of the province in which he is serving will wish to satisfy himself, following discussions between the diocesan bishop and the clergyman concerned, that his life is, and will remain, consistent with the teaching of the Church of England. . . These assurances will be sought before a candidate comes to be considered for nomination to a diocesan or suffragan see.”
But the new guidance says that assurances that a candidate is “in a non-sexually active civil partnership” may not be sufficient to guarantee a nomination to a particular bishopric. The CNC, or the diocesan bishop in the case of a suffragan appointment, would still be able to impose a requirement that a person in a civil partnership could not be put forward for the office concerned.
“Those responsible for making the nomination are entitled in law to reach a judgment on whether the fact that someone is in a civil partnership would prove an obstacle to nomination, given the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of those worshipping members of the Church of England to whom the bishop concerned would . . . be ministering.”
According to the Church Times, the advice echoes the guidance given in cases relating to divorced clergy, where those responsible for nominations are “entitled to reach a judgment on whether marital history might prove an obstacle”.