Conservative and liberal Anglicans joined forces yesterday evening to defeat the bishops at the Church of England Synod over gay priests.

The hierarchy wanted their view that gay and lesbian clergy can have civil partnerships as long as they stay celibate, ratified.

However, the Synod, which is made up for bishops, clergy and lay people, did reject an evangelical motion saying that civil partnerships undermine marriage.

The debate on the bishops’ policy was heated, with many gay and lesbian priest complaining that their superiors were intruding into their bedrooms to try to ensure that all Anglicans could stay in communion.

Paul Collier, a chaplain from London, asked the Synod’s heterosexual delegates to consider how they would feel if their bishop enquired about the state of their sex life.

Dr Julian Litten, also from London, said that the government had been more Christian than the Church in introducing civil partnership legislation, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The Anglican bishops insisted that gay partnerships had not changed the Church’s teaching on marriage, as they asked all gay clergy not to have sex, and partnerships were legally different from marriage.

Earlier yesterday the Synod passed a compromise resolution on gays in the church.

Some delegates were wary of re-opening the debate about the place of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the church just a week after a meeting of Anglican primates exposed the division in the worldwide communion.

A motion asking the Church to welcome and value gay Christians by the Rev Mary Gilbert of Bilston, West Midlands wanted to:

“welcome and affirm lesbian and gay Christians, lay and ordained, valuing their contribution at every level of the Church.”

After two hours of debate, the synod, meeting in London, decided to amend the Rev Gilbert’s motion in favour of one from the Bishop of Gloucester, which highlighted:

“continuing efforts to prevent the diversity of opinion about human sexuality creating further division and impaired fellowship within the Church of England and the Anglican Communion,” according to christiantoday.com

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rt Rev Michael Perham, said it was the wrong time to talk about gay priests:

“In the light of the primates’ meeting, I believe this to be one of those worst moments,” he told delegates.

“Does the Synod want an outcome that will be perceived, perhaps misperceived, in the Anglican Communion as the Church of England shifting its ground in one direction or another?

“Down the centuries the Church has been immensely blessed by the faithful service of men and women of homosexual orientation – it is blessed today.

“That is something not only to acknowledge, but in which to rejoice,” he said, according to the Daily Mail.

“But this is not the moment – it is very clearly the wrong moment – to shift our former position and give any sense of winners and losers on an issue on which we are finding it hard to reach consensus.”

The synod meets twice a year to discuss the business of the church, and is made up of bishops, priests and lay people.