Jonathan Wynne-Jones reports for the Sunday Telegraph Divorced bishops to be permitted for first time by Church of England.
Divorced clergy are to be allowed to become Church of England bishops for the first time in a move which has been condemned by traditionalists.
Critics described the change in Church rules as “utterly unacceptable” and warned it would undermine the biblical teaching that marriage is for life.
Conservative and liberal bishops have been deeply divided over the issue, which they have been secretly discussing for months.
While Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, supported relaxing the rules, John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is understood to have fiercely argued against a change.
But The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the change was agreed at a meeting of the House of Bishops in May.
The Church is set to issue a statement announcing the new policy next month after legal advice made clear that there is no obstacle to a divorcee, or a priest married to a divorcee, being consecrated.
It means that a number of clergy who have been rejected in the past by the Crown Nominations Commission, the body responsible for appointing bishops, will now be put forward for consideration.
The first beneficiary of the change could be the Rev Nick Holtam, vicar of St Martin in the Fields in London, whose supporters want to propose as the next Bishop of Southwark.
Despite having gained a reputation as an accomplished preacher and a formidable fund-raiser, having masterminded his church’s £36 million renovation appeal, conservatives had warned that his name would be blocked because his wife of 29 years had a brief marriage as a teenager.
Senior figures in the diocese of Southwark were angered by the prospect of not being able to appoint a man they saw as an outstanding candidate for the post. They have welcomed the change in the Church’s position…
…Under current rules, trainee clergy who are divorced, or are married to a divorcee, are required to obtain permission – known as a faculty – before they can be ordained, but priests with such a personal history are currently blocked from becoming bishops.
Now the moratorium is to be dropped in favour of clergy being considered for promotion on a case-by-case basis, a Church spokesman said…
The Press Association has what appears to be the full quote from the CofE spokesman:
“The House had asked previously for clarification of the relevant legal background and, in the light of that, has now agreed that a statement setting out its approach to these issues should be prepared.
“It is expected that the statement, addressing the relevant legal and theological issues, will be available in July when the General Synod meets.
“There is no legal obstacle to persons who have remarried after divorce, or are married to spouses remarried after divorce, becoming bishops. The agreed policy is to pursue a discretionary approach on a case-by-case basis. It is a clarification in an area where there has previously been some uncertainty both about the legal background and the policy.”