(CNN) -- Men in a civil union will now be allowed to become bishops in the Church of England, but they are not allowed to have sex.
Intercourse between two men -- or two women -- remains a sin.
"Homosexual genital acts fall short of the Christian ideal and are to be met with a call to repentance and the exercise of compassion," according to Anglican doctrine.
Men and women in same-sex unions were already allowed to serve as priests in the Church of England, but there was a moratorium on advancement to the episcopate -- becoming a bishop -- while the church considered the issue.
The church announced Friday that if men in celibate civil unions may be priests, then there is no reason for them not to be bishops, as long as they are "living in accordance with the teaching of the Church on human sexuality."
Any priest looking to become a bishop must undergo a thorough examination of "personal and family circumstances," according to a statement released by the House of Bishops of the Church of England.
Female priests are barred from advancing to the position of bishop, as a vote on the measure in the church failed to pass lay approval last November despite an overwhelming majority of support within the church hierarchy. Women have been permitted to enter the priesthood since the early 1990s.
The church defines marriage "as a faithful, committed, permanent and legally sanctioned relationship between a man and a woman, is central to the stability and health of human society." It believes sex should be practiced exclusively within a marriage.
The British parliament is expected to consider legislation allowing same-sex marriage, but the Church of England and the Church in Wales would be prohibited from performing wedding ceremonies as long as it remains against canon law.
In 2005, Britain allowed same-sex couples to register civil partnerships, prompting the church to consider the issue. It does not bless civil unions of any kind, for fear some of them may be sexual. But it also does not exclude gays and lesbians from the flock, according to it 2005 deliberations.
The Anglican Church is a protestant denomination intimately associated with the American Episcopal Church.
The church and state in Britain are formally connected.
The two archbishops of the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, along with 24 other bishops, have seats in Parliament in the House of Lords.
Though women may not yet rise to high positions in its clergy, Queen Elizabeth is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
CNN's Joseph Netto contributed to this report