LONDON (AFP) – The Anglican Church was on Monday set to approve controversial guidelines allowing openly homosexual clergy to become bishops.
In a paper due to be published Monday, the Church will seek to move in line with Britain's Equality Act by updating its rules to permit celibate homosexual men to be promoted.
The paper, entitled "Choosing Bishops - The Equality Act 2010", provides legal guidelines for those considering candidates for promotion and spells out that sexuality must not be a factor in the final decision.
"A person's sexual orientation is in itself irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry," the paper said.
However, the report does advise that church leaders could block a candidate if "the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question.
"It is clearly the case that a significant number of Anglicans, on grounds of strongly held religious conviction, believe that a Christian leader should not enter into a civil partnership, even if celibate, because it involves forming an exclusive, lifelong bond with someone of the same sex," it added.
"It is equally clear that many other Anglicans believe that it is appropriate that clergy who are gay by orientation enter into civil partnerships, even though the discipline of the Church requires them to remain sexually abstinent," the paper continued.
The Church has been urged to clarify its position after Jeffrey John, a celibate priest who is in a civil partnership with another cleric, was forced to stand down as suffragan bishop eight years ago.
The guidelines will be presented before the Church's General Synod in July.
The Anglican Church, which split from Rome in 1534, has 77 million followers worldwide and is Britain's dominant religion.