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Divorce: no legal bar to episcopacy

09 June 2010

by Rupert Shortt

THERE is no legal bar to bishops who are married after divorce, a church spokesman said on Monday.

A report in last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph suggested that church dis­cipline in this area was soon to be relaxed, after a discussion in the House of Bishops’ meeting last month. There is, however, no current rule, the spokesman said. “The agreed policy is to pursue a dis­cretionary ap­proach on a case-by-case basis.” In practice, no divorced priest has ever become a bishop in the Church of England, although one, the Bishop of Hull, the Rt Revd Richard Frith, was divorced after his consecration in 1998.

The House of Bishops did, indeed, discuss marriage after divorce and eligibility to the ordained ministry, and will shortly publish a statement of “clarification”, laying out the legal and theological issues, in time for the July General Synod sessions. The Church’s practice will have to be examined in the light of the new equality legis­lation.

The House of Bishops’ statement would be “a ‘clarification’ in an area where there has previously been some uncertainty both about the legal background and the policy”, the spokesman said.

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