A gay former governor of New Jersey has had his bid to join the Episcopal priesthood deferred.

Jim McGreevey, who resigned from his post as Governor of New Jersey in 2004 shortly after coming out and admitting to an affair with a male member of his staff, has been told that his path to priesthood is now on indefinite hold.

As reported by the Associated Press, the American Episcopal Church – which does allow the ordination of gay people and women priests – want McGreevey to wait a while in order to “put more distance between his possible ordination and the fairly recent turmoil in his life”.

Along with McGreevey’s resignation, he came out on national television and endured a “messy divorce” from his wife in 2008.

Speaking to the AP, the Reverend William Sachs, director of the Centre for Interfaith Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia, said it was “not unusual” for people to be deferred, adding that church officials would be interested in how someone with McGreevey’s baggage would handle the ministry.

Rev. Sachs said: “How would he apply what he’s learned to his ministry? Does he translate from being the person he was in the political realm to being in ordained ministry? It doesn’t surprise me there would be an instinct to defer.”

McGreevey, 53, attained a master of divinity degree last spring, after studying for three years at General Theological Seminary in New York City.

The Reverend Patricia McCaughan, who writes for the Episcopal News Service, said ordination was a complex, subjective process that differed from one state to another.

“If a person is deemed not ready to go forward, that doesn’t mean that’s the end. People can always try again.”

For now, McGreevey said he plans to continue ministering to inmates and helping raise his daughter, who is in elementary school.

McGreevey, who has lived with his partner Mark O’Donnell since 2005, has declined to comment on his potential ordination, saying the process is confidential.