Church of England Takes First Steps Toward Female Bishops

The Church of England’s ruling body has announced that women bishops should be allowed, despite protests from traditionalists within the Church. After a marathon 12-hour debate, the Church’s national assembly, the General Synod, has agreed to send draft legislation to dioceses for approval, according to Agence France-Presse. Assuming a majority of dioceses agree, women will begin to be ordained as bishops as early as 2014.

On Saturday, the Church of England rejected a bid from Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, to compromise over the ordination of women bishops. Williams put forward a compromise that would allow women to be appointed as bishops provided that a “complimentary” male bishop with independent powers was dually appointed, to appease traditionalists unwilling to see a woman as the head of a diocese. Reformers opposed this compromise because it would reduce women to the status of “second class” bishops, according to the New York Times. Women have been ordained as priests in the Church of England since 1994.

Some fear that the divide over women bishops will lead more Anglicans to defect to the Catholic Church. Last year, Pope Benedict XVI announced a special provision that would allow traditionalist Anglicans to convert to Catholicism, according to the New York Times.

The Church of England also faced threats of divide earlier this month when Dr. Jeffery John, an openly gay but celibate priest, received a nomination to become bishop of Southwark, according to the Guardian.


Agence France-Presse 7/13/10; New York Times 10/20/09; 7/10/10; Guardian 7/5/10

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