Church of England lifts ban on gay bishops so long as they don't have sex

The Church of England has lifted a ban on gay clergy in civil partnerships becoming bishops – so long as they promise to stay celibate, Reuters reported.

The House of Bishops, one of the church’s most senior bodies, made the controversial decision last month, but it was only made public today.

“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," he added in a statement on behalf of the House of Bishops.

The Church of England teaches that only married couples can have sex and that marriage is restricted to men and women. 

The decision will deepen divisions within the Church of England and the global Anglican community over the issue of homosexuality, with conservative members strongly opposed to gay clergy.

The Religion News Service reported the Church of England appointed gay cleric Jeffrey John as the Bishop of Reading in 2003, but he was later forced to step down due to an outcry.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the move puts the Church of England closer to the Episcopal Church in the US, which elected Mary Glasspool, who is openly gay, as bishop of Los Angeles in 2009.

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