Candidates being considered to become Anglican bishops will reportedly be asked about their sex life in the wake of last December’s vote by the House of Bishops to allow priests in same-sex unions to be considered for the post of bishop – providing they claim to be celibate.
The Telegraph reports a legal briefing sent to members of the Church of England General Synod reveals that under a new policy any priest in a civil partnership will have to convince an archbishop that they are not sexually active before their name can go forward for selection.
In relation to the Equality Act, the briefing states sexual orientation should be “irrelevant” in assessing someone’s suitability to become a bishop.
But it adds: “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.
“As explained in the Archbishops’ guidelines, these assurances will be sought before a candidate comes to be considered for nomination to a diocesan or suffragan see.”
Last month, Church of England officials denied the Dean of St Albans, Dr Jeffery John, England’s most senior openly gay Anglican, was being lined up to become the Bishop of Durham, a role vacated by the appointment of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr John, who supports equal marriage, was twice in line to become a bishop in recent years but his appointment was blocked because of opposition from conservatives within the Church.
Speaking to the House of Commons Public Bills Committee in February, to give evidence in favour of equal marriage, Dr John said he thought it would be “more Christian” to allow individual parishes to make up their own minds on the issue.