Church of England paves way for women bishops in 2014

Wed Nov 20, 2013 11:21am EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England's governing body voted overwhelmingly in favor of female bishops on Wednesday, ending a 20-year impasse that could see women ordained as senior clergy by the end of 2014.

A vote on a package of measures to endorse women bishops was supported by 378 members of the General Synod while eight voted against and 25 abstained after months of behind-the-scenes talks to unite reformers and traditionalists.

A year ago, a blocking minority succeeded in rejecting draft legislation on women bishops, leaving the church in crisis. That vote, lost by just six votes, was criticized by parliament and one senior church official called it a "train crash".

After that, church leaders set up a committee to find common ground. Its proposals won widespread acceptance in the Synod on Wednesday, even among groups previously opposed.

"The train is on the tracks, the train is moving forwards, and we now have some stations to pass along the way but we can begin to see the end of this particular journey," the Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff told a news conference.

The legislation will be discussed again at a meeting in February and a vote on final approval is likely in 2014.

The issue of female clergy has divided global Anglicanism. Women serve as bishops in the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand but Anglican churches in many developing countries do not even ordain them as priests.

Critics of female clergy say Jesus chose only men as his apostles, while supporters say it is a matter of equality.   Continued...

The Church of England Synod meets at Church House in central London November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning