Church of England takes another step towards allowing women bishops

February 9, 2012

(Members of the Church of England General Synod attend the opening at Church House in London February 6, 2012 . REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly )

The Church of England has moved closer to the consecration of women bishops  by voting against giving strengthened legal protection to traditionalists who favor an all-male clergy, a decision that could lead more to switch to Rome. The vote on Wednesday was the last chance for the church’s parliament, or synod, to influence the draft legislation in its long legislative process before it heads to the House of Bishops for consideration in May.

The draft will return to synod in July for a final vote – 20 years after it voted in favor of women priests. That women will get to wear the miter is in little doubt. What the synod had to consider was how much extra provision traditionalist Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals would get and how much more authority liberals should cede.

The consecration of women, along with homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages, is among the most divisive issues facing the 77 million members of the Anglican Church round the world. Other Anglican provinces already have women bishops, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Traditionalists and evangelicals, who say they represent 1,000 of the 13,000 parishes in England and Wales, wanted to strengthen the legal position of male bishops ministering in dioceses where parishes objected to women bishops.

They backed a motion which in effect resurrected a proposal put forward by the two most senior Church of England clerics, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, in July 2010, but which was rejected by the synod at the time.

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