Rift in Church of England deepens over ordination of women bishops
The Church of England has introduced draft legislation saying women should be consecrated as bishops on the same basis as men. Traditionalist Anglicans who back all-male clergy have warned that the proposals will force them to leave the Church of England.
A draft law released on 8 May 2010, which has taken nearly two years to complete, could lead to the first women bishops being ordained in 2014, 20 years after female priests were first welcomed into the church. It allows women clergy to enter the top ranks while giving almost no concessions to opponents.
Under the new proposals, expressed in a 142-page report, women bishops who might be appointed in the future would retain the authority to make local arrangements for objectors if necessary after referring to a statutory code of practice.
(Click here to find the proposals)
Parishes opposing women bishops will not be allowed to opt out of their jurisdiction, as some traditionalists hoped. They will, however, have the right to request a male bishop to carry out some roles in their churches, such as confirmation services and giving pastoral advice on complicated local issues.
The traditional wings of the Church claimed that the proposals were designed to ‘wipe out’ those on the Anglo-Catholic and evangelical wings of the Church who do not believe it is in accordance with biblical teaching for women to be bishops.
The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham and one of those involved with the talks in Rome discussing setting up an ‘ordinariate’ under a scheme catering for disaffected Anglicans within the Roman Catholic Church, said Anglo-Catholics would be ‘incandescent’ and would effectively be ‘forced out’ of the Church of England.
‘I think they have no choice but to leave,’ he said.
‘We will have to wait and see what the Church of England does with it, but my view is that Anglicanism as it used to be, which was a variety of groups coexisting peacefully, is over.’
Fr David Houlding, a member of the Synod, described the report as ‘wicked’ and warned that many clergy could now be forced to leave the Church.
‘It completely obliterates the position of anyone who in conscience can't accept women bishops.
‘I believe it's been designed to wipe out a sizeable proportion of the church who have been committed to the Church for centuries and who will now struggle to remain,’ he said.
The liberal wing of the Church of England, which has campaigned for women bishops ever since the first ordination of a woman priest, welcomed the draft legislation.
‘It is now right for the Church of England as a whole to accept women and men as equal before God in all parts of its ministry,’ Women and the Church, a group which champions women bishops, said in a statement.
The move would bring the Church of England into line with Anglicans in America, Canada and Australia, while simultaneously widening the gulf with Catholics in Rome and evangelicals worldwide.
Female frontrunners for the episcopate include June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, and Lucy Winkett, a canon at St Paul’s Cathedral. Winkett, a former professional singer, entered the priesthood after her boyfriend died from a fall during a walking holiday in the Alps while she was a student at Cambridge.
Others being tipped include Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a Jamaican-born vicar in inner London and chaplain to the Queen. She could become the first female black bishop, The Times reported.
The Committee considering the proposals has met on 16 occasions over the past 12 months and considered 114 submissions from members of the General Synod and a further 183 submissions from others.