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Increased possibility of female bishops in UK Anglican church

The Church of England has edged a step closer to accepting women bishops and the ability to have a female Archbishop of Canterbury as spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican communion following a report by a denominational group.

The 57-page document entitled "Women in the Episcopate: the Guildford Group Report", issued on 16 January by a group of bishops, was produced at the request of the General Synod, the Church of England parliament. It will be debated in February but a final vote on further action is not expected to be taken until members meet again in July.

The first response by opponents of change came from the Anglican evangelical Church Society whose chairman the Rev. George Curry said: "The Church continues to disintegrate. It is losing its credibility in the nation."

In July 2005 the synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle of women bishops.

The new report puts forward a compromise to avert the threat of a schism which faced the Church of England over the admission of women priests a decade ago and more recently over its position on homosexuality and same-sex civil partnerships.

It recommends a panel of male bishops should be appointed to care for all parishes that reject women bishops.

Christopher Hill, the bishop of Guildford, who led the group that issued the report, says it would be illogical to have women priests without bishops. He noted, "We have identified a way forward which, we believe, has the potential to permit the admission of women to the episcopate and preserve the maximum degree of unity across the Church of England."

On the question of a female Archbishop of Canterbury, likely to be strongly opposed by many Anglicans in Africa and Asia, he noted that the church would fall foul of Britain’s Sex Discrimination Act if its highest post were denied to women.

(c) Ecumenical News International