When the Church of England‘s ‘parliament’, the General Synod, meets at York University from 8 to 12 July members will reflect together on sharing Good News for the world today. Key debates will centre on the Church’s role in education, its work in multi-faith areas, and relations with other churches. Other subjects include the impact of higher education changes on training for the ministry and the involvement of minority ethnic Anglicans in the Church’s ministry and structures. An expected debate is about the Church of England hierarchy and the acceptance of the reality of gay clergy.

The church of England has published the document, Choosing Bishops – The Equality Act 2010 , a vademecum that “seeks to summarise some key points which those involved in the process of nominating bishops need to keep in mind in their deliberations and when considering or interviewing candidates”.In the paragraphs about Homosexuality and Civil Partnershi the act claims“A person’s sexual orientation is, in itself, irrelevant to their suitability for episcopal office or indeed ordained ministry more generally. It would, therefore, be wrong if, during a CNC (Crown Nominations Commissions ) or a selection process for a suffragan see, account were taken of the fact that a candidate had identified himself as of gay sexual orientation.

As a matter of law, however, the Act allows Churches and religious organisations to impose a requirement that someone should not be in a civil partnership or impose a requirement related to sexual orientation where ‘because of the nature or context of the [office], the requirement is applied so as to avoid conflicting with the strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of the religion’s followers’.” and then the Act continues “.

As in the case of divorce and remarriage, the question would remain whether the present or past personal relationships of a candidate would constitute an obstacle to episcopal appointment on the ground that someone in their position could not fulfil the responsibility and requirement of a bishop to act as a focus of unity.” However, the document says a selection committee could veto a gay candidate if “the appointment of the candidate would cause division and disunity within the diocese in question”.

General Synod member Christina Rees said: “Nobody other than Jeffrey John has been honest about their sexuality. It is distasteful that gay clerics are asked about their sex lives. There is no parity between them and straight clerics.”