Politicians often release important information hidden amongst many unimportant items so that a furore is not caused and now it seems the House of Bishops are playing the same game.
"The House considered an interim report from the group chaired by Sir Joseph Pilling on the Church of England's approach to human sexuality. Pending the conclusion of the group's work next year the House does not intend to issue a further pastoral statement on civil partnerships. It confirmed that the requirements in the 2005 statement concerning the eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate."
This little gem was amongst a report issued in the latter part of December when, I suspect, they thought no one would notice, being just three days away from Christmas. What it means, as the media have been quick to inform us, is that gay priests who are in civil partnerships can now be appointed Bishops provided they lead a celibate life!!!! So who will be supervising this celibacy? It will be down to the word of the individual concerned, as far as I can make out.
There have always been gay priests and gay bishops many of whom have led a totally celibate life and many of whom have kept their homosexuality hidden and discreet and many of whom have been exemplary priests and bishops. Nowadays it seems that people no longer wish to be discreet and would rather be up front about their sexuality.
I suspect that the fall out from this little hidden gem of the Bishops, especially amongst conservative evangelicals, will be quite profound. It makes me ask the question: “do the Bishops want to destroy the Church of England”; because I think they are going the right way about it.
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Epiphany or, to use the Book of Common Prayer name “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles”.