The Church of England to start reviews of policy on same-sex relationships and could consider allowing gay clergy to be ordained as bishops.
The move comes after a rise in the number of clergy entering civil partnerships, as well as pressure on the Church to conform to laws guaranteeing equal treatment to gay people.
The review appears to stem partly from evidence that the gay cleric Jeffrey John, who is celibate, was recently rejected as a candidate for appointment as Bishop of Southwark because of his sexual orientation.
Church lawyers subsequently warned that new legislation prevented the Church from discriminating against celibate gay clergy when making appointments.
The Church of England told clergy in 2005 they could enter civil partnerships if they remained celibate, but uncertainty has arisen about whether such clergy could be nominated as bishops.
A statement from the House of Bishops of the Church of England said: "It is now nearly six years since the house issued its pastoral statement prior to the introduction of civil partnerships in December 2005.
"The preparation of that document was the last occasion when the house devoted substantial time to the issue of same-sex relationships.
"We undertook to keep that pastoral statement under review. We have decided that the time has come for a review to take place."
The BBC is reporting that the Church's decision to extend the review to its approach to sexuality in general suggests that it could be on course towards a greater acceptance of active homosexuality.
That would be a move fiercely resisted by traditionalists.
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