Church of England faces close vote on women bishops

Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:44pm EST
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By Alessandra Prentice

LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England decides on Tuesday whether to allow the ordination of women bishops when members take part in an historic vote whose result could prove the first major test for the next archbishop.

Women already serve as Anglican bishops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States, but the Church of England, mother church for the world's 80 million Anglicans, has struggled to reconcile the dispute between reformers and traditionalists on whether to allow them in England.

Commentators say Tuesday's result could hinge on just a few votes and, if negative, could further polarize a church in which conservatives say a male-only clergy is the will of God.

"It will go to the wire ... Liberals will be spewing fire if it doesn't go through. Expect a lot of use of words like 'bigot' and 'misogynist'," said religion commentator Peter Ould, an Anglican priest.

While the Church has already voted to allow women bishops in theory, Tuesday's vote - on provisions to be made for conservatives theologically opposed to senior women clergy - needs to pass before women can be enthroned as Anglican bishops in England.

The dispute centers on ways to designate alternative male bishops to work with traditionalist parishes that reject the authority of a woman bishop named to head their diocese.

The General Synod, the Church's legislative body, is made up of separate houses for bishops, clergy and laity, and needs to reach a two-thirds majority in each house for the motion to succeed.


The Reverend Jane Morris speaks during an interview at St Gabriels Church in Cricklewood, north London November 18, 2012. The ruling body of the Church of England, the General Synod, will vote during a meeting on Tuesday to decide on a controversial issue - if women can be consecrated as bishops. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor