|Who should get to wear purple?|
A declaration by the House of Bishops (why they get to decide this but a General Synod has to decide on women bishops is another question!) has said 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 means that clergy in civil-partnerships can now be considered for jobs as bishops as long as they say they are celibate.
Many pixels have been and will be created about this topic. I'll to confine myself to observing just one irony: a clergyman who gets married to another man under the forthcoming legislation will (presumably) not be eligible to be a bishop (or serve in any ordained ministry) and will not be able to get married in a CofE church, because the church's understanding is that this monogamous, exclusive relationship is only for a man and a woman.*
A civil partnership is an equally monogamous, exclusive relationship which is generally sexual in nature (the fact that clergy are meant to declare that theirs are not demonstrates this, even though some have refused and no action has been taken). But a minister in a civil partnership will be able to be a bishop presiding over a whole diocese of churches: none of which will be able to offer marriages (or, by definition, civil partnerships) to gay couples!
What a tragedy that we have come to a point where the people who are widely perceived to represent Christianity to our nation make decisions which have every appearance of being based not on a careful examination of the Scriptures,** or even on some unbiblical but at least internally coherent logic, but on the wild caprice of the culture and its largely unbelieving elected representatives and media types.
There is great danger in this for evangelical Anglicans, especially those who advanced the argument that it is unjust to deny somebody a ministry they are gifted for in favour of women bishops, but who would be (rightly in my view) opposed to a celibate bishop in a civil partnership.
There is greater danger, however, for all Christians, whatever our church, in seeking to speak into this entire tinder-box issue with clarity about what actions God declares to be wicked and immoral, and equal clarity about the compassion and grace God extends to all of us sexual sinners when we come in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus.
*It's not clear what would happen if he was both married AND in a civil partnership or, indeed, if such a thing will even be legally possible!
** I'm not saying none of those involved advanced Scriptural arguments, and I recognise that reporting is heavily slanted. But, even trawling the web for the fullest arguments offered in both this and the women bishops discussion I think most people would have to admit that discussion based on Scripture and historic doctrines was not the dominant note.