Liberals in the Church of England have begun a coordinated push to open the way for practising homosexuals to be ordained as bishops, according to reports.
They are currently planning a survey of Anglican clergy to ascertain how many describe themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual (LGBT), and expect the figure in London to be as high as 20 per cent.
They also intend to find out how many same-sex blessings have taken place, with estimates in the hundreds.
The plans have been revealed by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent at The Times.
She writes: “After that, bearing in mind the General Synod elections next year, they will make a push for the Church of England to approve gay blessings and gay ordinations to the priesthood and episcopate, as The Episcopal Church has done.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, recently called for a “two-track” approach to accommodating different views on homosexuality within the Anglican Communion.
Urging against schism, Dr Williams nonetheless pointed out that a same-sex union is a “chosen lifestyle” which “is not one that the Church’s teaching sanctions”.
A number of groups, including the think-tank Ekklesia, have signed a statement criticising the Archbishop’s position.
It says: “We acknowledge, once again, that there are and always have been many loyal, committed and faithful bishops, priests and deacons – properly selected and ordained – and many lay people who are LGBT or who work alongside LGBT people with delight and thanksgiving.
“We know ourselves to be part of the church of God in England and we work, together, to bring about the reign of God in this part of God’s creation. We pray earnestly that the Church of England will continue to select, train, ordain and deploy LGBT people and enable them to exercise their calling from God in the Church of England.
“Together, we reaffirm our commitment to working for the full inclusion of all people at all levels of ministry. We will continue to work towards liturgical and sacramental recognition of the God-given love which enables many LGBT couples to thrive.”
Ruth Gledhill reports that liberal parishes in the Church of England are in the early stages of forging links with allies in the Episcopal Church in the United States.
Last month at the Episcopal Church General Convention in California, both the House of Deputies (composed of clergy and lay members) and the House of Bishops agreed to give “partnered gays” full access to ordination as bishops.
Ruth Gledhill described the move as a “step towards schism” in the worldwide Anglican Communion.