Anglican head says determined to push for women bishops

Fri Jul 5, 2013 4:25pm EDT
 
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By Adam Jourdan

LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England must follow through on plans to ordain women bishops, its spiritual head said on Friday, as talks on the issue that have divided the church were set to re-open.

In his first address to its national assembly, the General Synod, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said the Church must adapt to a changing society in which congregation numbers are falling in many increasingly secular countries.

"Let's be clear, pretending that nothing has changed is absurd and impossible. In times of revolution we too in the Church of England must have a revolution," said Welby, a former oil executive who was named successor to Rowan Williams as the head of the Anglican church in late 2012.

In November, reforms to allow women bishops fell at the final hurdle. Despite receiving support from 73 percent of Synod members, a vote narrowly failed to attain the necessary two-thirds majority in one of the Synod's three houses.

Bespectacled and with his dog-collared clerical shirt rolled up to the elbows, Welby told the Synod at the University of York that the Church must get rid of its "baggage" after it came under sharp criticism in November for failing to push through gender reforms.

"If we say we will ordain women as priests and bishops, we must do so in exactly the same way as we ordain men," he said.

On Monday, the Synod will take the first tentative steps to restart talks on the issue, but the full process will take around two years, meaning female bishops would not be permitted in the Church until 2015 at the earliest.

The archbishop looked to placate reformists as well as conservative factions, talking about healing the mistrust in the Church and not directly mentioning the issue of women bishops until over halfway through his speech.   Continued...

 
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (3rd R) reads a blessing together with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos (4th R) during a visit to the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City June 28, 2013. REUTERS/Baz Ratner