Church Of England Welcomes Gay Bishops With Partners—So Long As They’re Celibate

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 12.36.09 PMSometimes we scratch our heads over the philosophical gymnastics religious leaders go through to appear welcoming to the LGBT community while still denying our basic equality: In Great Britain, the Church of England has announced that gay priests in civil partnerships can become bishops— so long as they remain celibate.

To our mind, that’s worse then just telling us we’re not welcome—especially since the Church doesn’t ask its heterosexual clergy to be celibate.

The Rev Colin Coward, director of the LGBT Anglican group Changing Attitude, isn’t buying it:  “I don’t believe they are serious about opening the door to someone in a civil partnership becoming a bishop,” he said. “I would only believe they are serious when it happens.”


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  • hyhybt

    Worse in a sense… but still a step, however odd, in the right direction. A person or organization moving ultimately towards full equal welcoming but determined only to take baby steps has to go through “Side B,” and that’s essentially what this is. The nearer half, in fact: from “stop being gay” to “being gay is OK as long as you’re permanently single and celibate” to “relationships are OK as long as you don’t have sex” is a long way to have moved when you’re the one who’s done the moving. And of course from there it’s only one more step to “sex within that relationship is also OK.”

  • alexoloughlin

    Actually, an umnarried hetero becoming a bishop would also have to remain celibate until married. The Church of England’s teaching is that sex is confined to hetero marriage only, especially for married clergy.

  • 2eo

    @hyhybt: It’s worked wonderfully. We have systematically got them to accept homosexuality in a sense, which has caused a massive schism, coupled with a complete change of focus on the church now on their stance against women. We are well on our way to decimating the church from the inside out.

    2013 has started like a freight train, never expected so much progress in unmarrying the church from the state, only 5 days old this year, great early pick me up.

  • gaym50ish

    I can see it now. Just like the old ritual examination of the marriage-night bedsheets to determine whether a bride was a virgin, they could say, “We can make you a bishop, but first we have to examine your anus.”

    Of course that wouldn’t work if he wasn’t a bottom, so some other invasion of privacy might be needed.

  • Ogre Magi

    Christians are such turds

  • Samuel

    @hyhybt: doubt if this is a step forward. this would hav been OK,if celibacy was an option. its now mandatory only on gay bishops which comes out of the teaching that being gay is not Ok.

  • 2eo

    @Samuel: It’s a master stroke in my opinion. The church has come under massive pressure to modernise and the cogs are in motion and the conservatives are getting pissed off with these punitive and condescending changes.

    What it has done is open the avenue of attack that the church is institutionally against women, as well as homosexuals, I for one welcome the addition of 40% of the population into the battle for pushing the church of England out of government influence completely.

    It is sad that it has taken such measure to get women to realise that the church and christianity in general absolutely despises women. This is the kind of numerical power the average moral, intelligent person has needed for decades in this just struggle against oppression.

    It isn’t perfect, but with state forced religion I’ll take anything I can get.

  • Saint_Nunya

    It sure would be nice if people knew the difference between celibacy and chastity…

    I’ve always been celibate as I’ve never been married… I haven’t been chaste since I was 14…

  • hyhybt

    @Saint_Nunya: I’m familiar with chaste-but-not-celibate, but how do you get it the other way around?

  • hyhybt

    @Saint_Nunya: Interesting. Still, it’s not misusing the word to use it in the more common first meaning, which is still not synonymous with being chaste.

  • Samuel

    @Saint_Nunya: @hyhybt:

    Abstinence: abstaining from sex with others but not necessarily from self,i.e. masturbation.
    Celibacy: the state of being unmarried.It doesn’t necessarily mean being unsexual but obviously implies it.
    Continence: no sex with self or with others; what is required of catholic priests and nuns.
    Chastity: being true to sexual boundaries required by one’s relgious or socialcommunity. For a married person this usually means not cheating, for an unmarried person, waiting for sex until marraige.

  • almagnuson

    Why would anyone, whether male or female, enter into a civil union with another person but remain celibate? God declared in Genesis, so says the church, that it was not good for man to be alone. God proceded to look for a partner for man. He looked among the animals he had created but could find none that was acceptable. The best helpmate for a man is another human being, the same is true for females, the best helpmate is another human being. Celibacy is a doctrine introduced after St. Paul. Unfortunately in respect to sexuality the catholic church is totally f*#k@d up. Too much more to say and too little space.

  • Joel J

    The more the Church tries to look relevant to the times, the more it appears anachronistic.

  • Dakotahgeo

    @Ogre Magi: No, just christians who CALL themselves Christians but are actually “christians” who do not act like Christians.

  • InscrutableTed

    “Abstinent” would be a better word than celibate. Celibate means unmarried. It’s often used as a euphemism for “abstinent”, but when you’re talking about priests there’s the possibility of genuine confusion.

    (“Chaste”, which someone mentioned above, isn’t the right word either. A married woman who has sex with her husband is still chaste as long as she’s faithful.)

  • hyhybt

    @InscrutableTed: What’s with people in this thread pretending the second definition of “celibate” is the only correct one?

  • InscrutableTed

    @hyhybt: It’s not the only definition, but it’s the definition used by the organization we’re speaking of, and it’s a definition that would make sense in this context. Unfortunately, it’s not the definition that Queerty intends.

    I make no comment on what’s “more correct”, just on what’s more clear. The aim in journalism should be clarity.

  • hyhybt

    @InscrutableTed: Let me try this another way… the definition you’re going by is obscure. It’s almost never used. The article, therefore, is using words to mean what people expect them to mean. If Queerty used “celibate” to mean “unmarried,” THAT would confuse people. This does not; it just ticks off people who seek out excuses to nitpick, as far as I can see, on no basis whatsoever… unless, of course, you can show where the Church of England defines “celibate” exclusively as “unmarried.” Because that’s such a bizarre claim, whether it turns out to be true or not.

  • InscrutableTed

    By the way, it’s interesting to note that Catholic priests are sworn to “celebacy”, but not “chastity”. In other words, the Church doesn’t care so much if their priests are having sex and illegitimate children, as long as they don’t get married (which would legitimize their children).

    Why? Because legitimate children can inherit property, but illegitimate children cannot. (Or, that’s how it used to be.) It was once common for priests to have illegitimate children. Some say that the priests’ vows of celibacy are all about the Church protecting its property. If a priest’s children are illegitimate, the priest’s property remains with the church after his death.

    Or so I heard.

  • InscrutableTed

    @hyhybt: You might find it bizarre, but I assure you, use of the word “celibate” to mean “unmarried” is alive and well in religious contexts, even if it’s not the mainstream usage anymore. For example, before having a church wedding in Quebec, you have to give the priest a “certificate of celibacy” which says that you’re not already married.

    I don’t know what the Reuters style guide says, but I think it’s best to avoid any use of the word “celibate” in this context unless you explain which sense you mean.

  • alexoloughlin

    @Samuel: Don’t forget, celibacy is also mandatory for single unmarried hetero Anglican bishops.

  • hyhybt

    @InscrutableTed: Thank you. That’s a curiosity in itself though: why does thrir style guide disagree with the way the word is used in every single actual news article I’ve ever read, and why do they not include a reference to what word you should use to refer to someone’s not having sex?

    But backing up to your comment, it is only usual to specify which meaning you intend when there is a rational likelihood of confusion. For example, if someone tells you your coffee is on the table, you (presumably) don’t act all confused because “table” can also refer to a list of data. In this case, “unmarried” would be nonsensical, because NOBODY in a civil partnership is married. It is clearly and obviously, beyond any resonable doubt, a reference to lack of sex. Therefore, there is nothing TO clarify.

  • Samuel

    @2eo: The church which of course is ruled by men might despise women but Christianity of all the religions in the world does not, IMO.

    I agree though that the anglican church has sadly been very backward when it comes to womens and homosexual rights and all changes seem to be more out of a spirit of appeasement rather than true acceptance.

  • Samuel

    @InscrutableTed: Catholic priests are sworn to perfect continence and are expected to be both chaste and celibate ie, maintain their priestly status(chaste) and not marry(celibate)

    Canon 277. § 1
    Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and therefore are bound to celibacy.
    Clerici obligatione tenentur servandi perfectam perpetuamque propter Regnum coelorum continentiam,

    Continence in lay mans term mean no sex with others or self(masturbation)

  • hyhybt

    @Samuel: It’s hard to say. A church, of course, is made of people; many Anglicans (English Anglicans) are very much accepting, but many others are not. The sense I get is that, if anything, it’s their moving so slowly that’s appeasement towards those who want things The Way They Have Always Been, not the other way around, but it’s impossible to say for certain.

    I do wish they wouldn’t worry so much about the Anglican Communion. If they were only concerned with the Church of England itself, things might get on quicker.

  • Dionte

    How will they know?

Comments are closed.