The House of Bishops of the Church of England has lifted a ban on gay clergy who are celibate and in civil partnerships.
It said the bishops believed it would be "unjust" to exclude from consideration for the episcopate anyone seeking to live in full conformity with the Church's teaching on sexual ethics or other areas of personal and life discipline.
The Rt Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwhich noted there had been a moratorium on such candidates for the past year and a half while a working party looked into the matter.
He said the House of Bishops' Pastoral Statement on Civil partnerships issued in 2005 did not address specifically whether clergy who entered into civil partnerships should be considered for the episcopate.
"The House has confirmed that clergy in civil partnerships, and living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality, can be considered candidates for the episcopate," the Rev. James said.
The Church of England teaches that "sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively. Sexual relationships outside marriage, whether heterosexual or between people of the same sex, are regarded as falling short of God's purposes for human beings."
Bishop James said on Friday that all candidates for the episcopate undergo a searching examination of personal and family circumstances, given the level of public scrutiny associated with being a bishop in the church.
Last month, the House of Bishops confirmed that the requirements in a 2005 statement concerning eligibility for ordination of those in civil partnerships whose relationships are consistent with the teaching of the Church of England apply equally in relation to the episcopate
The 2005 statement said it would not be appropriate to provide services of blessing for those who register a civil partnership
"'The House of Bishops,' it says, 'does not regard entering into a civil partnership as intrinsically incompatible with holy orders, provided the person concerned is willing to give assurances to his or her bishop that the relationship is consistent with the standards for the clergy set out in Issues in Human Sexuality,'" the 2005 statement noted.
The Church of England noted at the time that introduction of civil partnerships into the legal code made no change to the law in relation to marriage and that the government had said it had no intention of introducing 'same-sex marriage."
The current government led by Prime Minister David Cameron has called for churches in England and Wales to be allowed to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies, but said they would not be required to do so.
The Church restated its support for traditional marriage in response.