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LONDON, January 8, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Church of England announced January 4 that it is dropping objections to accepting homosexual clergy as bishops, even those who live in formal civil partnerships, on the condition that they agree to remain celibate.

The announcement earned a rebuke from African members of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, including Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, who called the decision “discouraging”.

In a statement the Church of England said it was “unjust” to exclude gay men from the episcopate who are “seeking to live fully in conformity with the Church’s teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal life and discipline.”

A spokesman for the Church’s House of Bishops, Bishop of Norwich Graham Jones, said, “The House of Bishops has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered as candidates for the episcopate. There had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while the working party completed its task.”

The announcement coincides with the formal retirement of former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, whose leadership has been criticized on both sides of the debate for elusiveness over the issue. The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, appointed in November last year, has indicated his openness to more “listening” on the subject of homosexuality in the Anglican clergy.

Archbishop Ntagali, part of the more conservative, and vastly more numerous Anglican churches of Africa, said in response to the decision: “It is very discouraging to hear that the Church of England, which once brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Uganda, has taken such a significant step away from that very gospel that brought life, light, and hope to us.”

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The Ugandan bishop said that the Church of England is now in violation of both Biblical Christianity and internal agreements intended to keep the Anglican Communion from breaking apart.

“We stand with those in the Church of England who continue to stand for the Biblical and historic faith and practice of the Church.  Our grief and sense of betrayal are beyond words,” Ntagali said.

Yesterday the Anglican Church of Kenya also announced their rejection of the Church of England’s decision. Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon), wrote to the bishops of England warning that they risked further damaging the global Anglican church.

“It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognized relationships which institutionalize and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of the Scripture, as reaffirmed for Anglicans in one of the resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference,” Wabukala said.

Gafcon is composed of a council of Archbishops from Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Rwanda, Congo, South and parts of North America who maintain that only adherence to Biblical and traditional Christian moral teaching can save the Anglican Church from extinction.

The Church of England’s decision is also being opposed by the minority Evangelical wing of the Church.

The Church of England’s current policy is expressed in the statement of 1991 that says homosexual relationships are acceptable for laity but not for clergy. This new decision means that clergyman living in a legally recognized civil union with a member of the same sex must state, publicly at least, that he is not having homosexual relations with his “partner” if he wants to be considered for the episcopate.

The conservative Anglican commentator David Virtue, writing on his website Virtue Online, described the situation as “the Mad Hatter’s tea party”.

“You gotta love loopholes especially ones big enough to push a miter through.”

“But the rules now allow for the POSSIBILITY of a gay bishop, who is celibate of course, so long as he doesn’t ever admit he once had it off with Smithy who never quite got over his infatuation with Charles who lingered too long with Winston when they were at university together watching reruns of Brideshead Revisited.

“Perhaps there will be a new made for TV miniseries, ‘No Sex Please, We’re Bishops.’”

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