British National Party members are set to be banned from becoming clergy in the Church of England after top bishops ruled the party was "incompatible" with Christian teaching.

Members of the Church's national assembly gave final approval to legislation making it "unbecoming" or "inappropriate" conduct for clergy to be members of a political party with such policies and activities declared "incompatible" with Church ideals on race equality.

The bishops would have to vote by a two-thirds majority in favour of proscribing an organisation, with the General Synod given the opportunity to endorse or reject a decision.

The ban could be lifted by a simple majority vote by bishops if the party proves it has changed its policies.

The British National Party reacted with fury, with a spokesman saying: "We are a modern, forward thinking and progressive nationalist party.

"We are non-discriminatory and we have a constitution to match."

He added: "It is high time that was put out there. The Church of England has to keep up to date - they are stuck in the 1970s."