CofE waits a little longer to decide on powers for women bishops

January 15, 2010

Canterbury Cathedral, 23 Dec 2009/Suzanne Plunkett

Anyone hoping to get an idea of how many Church of England traditionalists may abandon the Mother Church for Rome in disgust and despair over women bishops may have to wait a little longer.

What has already been a long-drawn out affair will be delayed a further six months after the CoE Revision Committee, tasked with looking at how women bishops can be accommodated, decided the matter would not be debated at next month’s General Synod, the Church’s parliament.

A poor response to the committee’s October suggestion resulted in it effectively being told to think again, pushing back the timetable.  Under Church law, the new proposal can now not be discussed until the next General Synod – in July.

That slightly threw the spanner in the works of those traditionalists who were planning to announce whether they were to take up Pope Benedict’s offer in his “Apostolic Constitution” of a Roman home for disaffected Anglicans. Benedict issued a document last October opening the door for conversion by whole groups of disaffected Anglicans while allowing them to maintain some English traditions (including married clergy).

The traditionalist group Forward in Faith (FiF), which opposes the ordination of women priests and bishops, had warned that about 12 bishops in England would “swim the Tiber.”  Actual numbers and names were to be revealed immediately after the February synod.

Some supporters of women bishops had described the timing as cynical. They likened it to emotional blackmail by a spouse in an unhappy marriage, one who says:  “If they don’t give me what I want at the synod, I’ll walk out the door.”

Now that the timing for that strategy has fallen a little flat, will the traditionalists go ahead with their decision or will they hang on for another six months?

FiF director Stephen Parkinson said the synod delay will “absolutely” have an impact.But he added:  “While some people will decide what they want to do, I suspect many people will not decide until July.”

This has all gone on for so long that one has to ask: what’s another few months?

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