Gay clergy turn up heat on bishops over ban

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The Independent Online
A list of pro-gay candidates for the next elections to the General Synod in September and October this year will be drawn up by a new pressure group formed by members of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. The founders have consulted veterans of the campaign for women's ordination for advice on effective techniques.

The movement's secretary, the Rev Richard Kirker, said yesterday that lesbian and gay clergy were still being denied posts after ordination on the grounds of their sexuality.

The House of Bishops' most recent pronouncement on the subject, in 1991, concluded that homosexual acts were still forbidden for clergymen, and a recent conference of Anglican Evangelicals, addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, reaffirmed the ban onpractising gay clergy.

The group's formation will be officially announced at the July meeting of the Church of England's General Synod in York. It reflects a new mood of militancy in the movement after the "outing" of 10 bishops at the last General Synod meeting in London lastNovember. On Monday this week the Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Timothy Bevin, who was "outed" by militant gays last November, announced his decision to retire to a monastery, but denied that there was any connection.

The Rev Kirker, a deacon who was himself refused ordination to the priesthood in 1973, said that the immediate consequence of the outing was that a number of bishops who had ignored the movement asked him to talk to them the next day.

"Those bishops who put pressure on us to get Outrage [militant gays] off their backs have got to understand that we've got to have some evidence that gay and lesbian ordinands will be found parishes," he said.

Asked whether his new, more aggressive stance might provoke a backlash and destroy the tolerance of gay clergy which is found in many parts of the church, he replied that tolerance had not done homosexual clergy any real favours.