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Church vote backs women bishops

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    Tuesday, 8 July 2008 01:01 UK Church vote backs women bishops  Dr Rowan Williams Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to accommodate traditionalists The Church
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 7, 2008
      Tuesday, 8 July 2008 01:01 UK

      Church vote backs women bishops

      Dr Rowan Williams
      Dr Rowan Williams said he wanted to accommodate traditionalists

      The Church of England's ruling General Synod has voted to consecrate women as bishops and approved a code of practice aimed at reassuring opponents.

      However, the code falls short of safeguards demanded by traditionalists, such as allowing male "super-bishops" to cater for those against the reforms.

      Liberals said such moves would have created a two-tier episcopacy.

      A Church group will now draw up a draft of the as-yet unspecified safeguards to put before Synod next February.

      Some 1,300 clergy had threatened to leave the Church if safeguards were not agreed to reassure objectors.

      'Structurally humiliating'

      Opponents of women's consecration as bishops had made the threat to leave in a letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but critics said many of the signatories were retired rather than serving clergy.

      Women in the Church had said any compromise allowing traditionalists to go to super-bishops instead of female bishops would create second-class clergy and institutionalise division.

      Following six hours of debate on Monday, which saw one bishop in tears, the Synod rejected both the super-bishops proposal as well as the traditionalists' preferred option of new dioceses for objectors.

      If there isn't proper provision for us to live in dignity, inevitably we're driven out
      Rt Rev John Broadhurst
      Bishop of Fulham

      Q&A: Vote over women bishops

      BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggot said the vote had been conclusive and was accompanied by emotional scenes.

      But traditionalists have warned that the decision could hasten the prospect of a split within the Church.

      Conservatives who oppose the liberalisation of Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality have already set up the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FoCA), which has promised to set up a council of bishops.

      During the debate at the University of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he would be in favour of "a more rather than a less robust" form of accommodating traditionalists.

      'Navel-gazing'

      He added: "I am deeply unhappy with any scheme or any solution to this which ends up, as it were, structurally humiliating women who might be nominated to the episcopate."

      Tory MP and Synod member Robert Key, who supported the reforms, said afterwards it was time for the Church to move beyond "navel-gazing".

      He added: "It is a good day for the Church of England, and it is a good day for the country because our national church, the church by law established, is actually now in step with most of the country and what people feel."
      It is very good for the Church and very good for women and also good for the whole nation
      Christina Rees
      Women and the Church

      Synod member and traditionalist Gerry O'Brien was hissed during the debate as he alluded to the American and Canadian Churches, from whom traditionalists have split in protest at the ordination of an openly gay bishop in 2003.

      Mr O'Brien said: "We can force people out of the Church of England but I think the experience in America says you can't force people out of the Anglican communion, because there are a lot of archbishops elsewhere in the world who will be more than ready to provide the support."

      The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham and a traditionalist, told Newsnight that the vote could lead to a split.

      "I think a lot of us have made it quite clear if there isn't proper provision for us to live in dignity, inevitably we're driven out," he said.

      "It's not a case of walking away."

      Christina Rees, chairwoman of Women and the Church, which supports female ordination, said she welcomed the decision.

      She added: "It is very good for the Church and very good for women and also good for the whole nation."

      The first women were ordained as priests in the Church of England in 1994.

      The Episcopal Church in Scotland has already cleared the way for ordaining women bishops, as have churches in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. 

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