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Reform Media Statement

20th June 2011

Reform calls for legal advice on Bishops’ Appointments to be withdrawn

The legal advice from Church House on whether clergy in civil partnerships can be appointed as bishops should never have been published and should now be withdrawn. This is the view of General Synod member and chairman of Reform, the Revd Rod Thomas.

Commenting on the advice that has now been circulated to General Synod members, Mr Thomas said:“this gives the impression that the Church of England has decided that it is acceptable for candidates for the episcopacy to be in civil partnerships. However, no such decision has been taken by the Church and as a matter of law it is within its rights to prevent such a thing happening.”

The legal advice states that it is up to those involved in individual appointment processes to decide whether or not they want to take into account a candidate’s civil partnership. It also implies that it is similarly up to them to decide whether or not any expression of repentance for past same-sex activity is needed. 

Mr Thomas said: “This goes far beyond anything the Church has decided to permit and opens up the possibility of a bishop being appointed who, whilst being celibate, is in a civil partnership and openly opposes the Church’s teaching on marriage.

“To be in a civil partnership is to be seen as having forged a lifelong bond with someone of the same sex; to have created family ties; and to have engaged in a commitment similar to marriage. A bishop vows to protect the church’s teaching both by what he says and by the way he lives. This is immediately compromised when he engages in a civil partnership. If the Church no longer wants bishops to support the Bible’s teaching on marriage and sexual relations, it is not up to a legal office to hint at it. It must be decided by the House of Bishops and affirmed by the General Synod.

“There can, of course, be no bar on a person being appointed as a bishop because of their sexual orientation. The issue is what they teach and how they live.”

Mr Thomas will now be writing to the Secretary General of the General Synod asking for the legal advice to be withdrawn and new advice issued. In the absence of this, Mr Thomas warned that the issue would be firmly addressed at the Synod itself.

Ends

For further information contact:

Revd Paul Dawson, Reform media officer, 07791 495824

To see the news story click here.

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