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Church of England takes step towards having women as bishops

The Church of England’s general synod has voted that the appointment of women as bishops is theologically justified, but hurdles remain before the measure can be implemented in the Anglican denomination.

"I must pay tribute to Anglican women who have been tested for nearly 90 years," the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, told the synod. "They have kept the faith and remained loyal to the Church of England."

On 10 July, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was to bring forward proposals to the synod to implement the measure, following the 288-119 vote two days earlier that admitting women as bishops was consistent with the faith of the church.

A two-thirds majority in each of the three Church of England synod houses – bishops, clergy and laity – or the church’s parliament, will need to approve the changes to the denomination’s legal structures. But in the 8 July vote on the principle of admitting women as bishops, the majority in the house of laity – 123 in favour to 68 against – was less than the required two-thirds.

Clergy and parishes opposed to the consecration of women as bishops are expected to threaten to withhold funds, and to seek enclaves within the church for male-only clergy with their own bishops.

An opponent of women bishops, the Rev. David Houlding said the vote would be seen as a "huge insult to the Roman Catholic Church".

The Vatican’s top official for promoting Christian unity, Cardinal Walter Kasper, in June warned the Church of England against introducing women bishops. "It would be a decision against the common goal we have until now pursued in our dialogue: full ecclesial communion, which cannot exist without full communion in the episcopal office," he told a meeting of the denomination’s bishops.

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

Only three Anglican churches – those in the United States, New Zealand and Canada – have appointed women bishops, although another 11 of the Anglican Communion’s 38 regions have accepted the principle. In June, the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church elected a woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, as its next presiding bishop.

(c) Ecumenical News International