Head of Church of England hopeful vote will back women bishops

Sun Jul 13, 2014 11:10am EDT
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By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Canterbury said he was hopeful that the Church of England's governing body would approve women bishops when it votes on the issue this week.

Justin Welby, spiritual leader of the world's 80 million Anglicans, said the general public would find it "almost incomprehensible" should the General Synod fail to support the move on Monday.

The long-running debate pits reformers, keen to project a more modern and egalitarian image of the church as it struggles with falling congregations in many increasingly secular countries, against a minority of conservatives who see the change as contradicting the Bible.

Previous draft legislation on women bishops was narrowly rejected by the Synod in 2012, to the dismay of both church leaders and politicians.

"Theologically, the church has been wrong not to ordain women as priests and bishops over the centuries," Welby told the BBC's Andrew Marr show in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

"The votes I think are there ... I'm hopeful it will pass," he said, adding that he believed the first female bishop could be named early next year.

Local media have said Welby is planning to push through the legislation even if it is rejected by the General Synod.

But, asked if he could ignore the Synod and impose women bishops on the church anyway, Welby said: "Absolutely not."   Continued...

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks during a news conference at Lambeth Palace in London February 20, 2014.  REUTERS/Neil Hall