Report to give seven options on woman bishops - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
November 1, 2004

Report to give seven options on woman bishops

-1/11/04

A working party will this week publish a report outlining what are expected to be seven options for dealing with the question of women bishops in the Church of England.

It follows a three-year inquiry by a 15-person commission, chaired by the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

It is expected to set out a series of possibilities for resolving the controversy, taking in a series of compromises that include allowing women to be bishops, but not senior ones, and setting up a separate "province" for Anglicans who want nothing to do with female priests.

The Church Times has suggested that a chapter from a draft of the report contains seven specific options:

ï maintaining the current status quo, whereby women priests cannot be made bishops;

ï drawing up single-clause legislation to allow women to be bishops;

ï allowing women priests to become diocesan bishops, but not archbishops;

ï allowing women priests to become suffragan bishops, but barring them from diocesan posts and archbishoprics;

ï allowing women to become bishops within a diocesan team, which would always include a male bishop;

ï creating an extended form of episcopal oversight for those opposed to women bishops;

ï establishing a third province within the Church of England for those opposed.

But supporters of women bishops are confident that victory is near.

The dioceses of Guildford, Worcester, Ripon and Leeds, Southwark and St Albans have already put forward motions in favour of women bishops.

Two women have so far risen to become cathedral deans: and the Very Rev June Osborne at Salisbury and Vivienne Faull at Leicester are regarded as front runners for a bishopric. Some other countries, notably the US, Canada and New Zealand, already have female bishops.

The report's publication may re-open open a division in the church as deep as the rift over gay bishops, which has almost caused the break-up of the worldwide Anglican communion.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Bishop of Salisbury suggested traditionalists should consider leaving the Church of England, if it backs the ordination of women bishops.

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury and a supporter of change, said it would be impossible to make special arrangements to cater for members opposed to women leading dioceses. Traditionalists would have to decide whether to accept women bishops or leave the church if they could not.

The Trade and Industry Secretary Minister for Women Patricia Hewitt, also waded into the row at the weekend saying women in the Church should not be constrained by a 'stained glass ceiling'.

"This is a matter for the Church, but I am in principle against any kind of glass ceiling - stained glass or otherwise," she told The Observer .

Hewitt was backed by Chris Bryant, a former priest and chairman of the Christian Socialist Movement, who is now a Labour MP. He said, given almost as many women were being ordained as men, they should receive equal chances.

Although governments have traditionally avoided involvement in Church affairs, the first ordination of women in 1993 became intensely political. High-profile Tories such as Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer converted to Roman Catholicism rather than accept the change.

The report will be debated at the Church of England's General Synod in February next year.

Report to give seven options on woman bishops

-1/11/04

A working party will this week publish a report outlining what are expected to be seven options for dealing with the question of women bishops in the Church of England.

It follows a three-year inquiry by a 15-person commission, chaired by the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali.

It is expected to set out a series of possibilities for resolving the controversy, taking in a series of compromises that include allowing women to be bishops, but not senior ones, and setting up a separate "province" for Anglicans who want nothing to do with female priests.

The Church Times has suggested that a chapter from a draft of the report contains seven specific options:

ï maintaining the current status quo, whereby women priests cannot be made bishops;

ï drawing up single-clause legislation to allow women to be bishops;

ï allowing women priests to become diocesan bishops, but not archbishops;

ï allowing women priests to become suffragan bishops, but barring them from diocesan posts and archbishoprics;

ï allowing women to become bishops within a diocesan team, which would always include a male bishop;

ï creating an extended form of episcopal oversight for those opposed to women bishops;

ï establishing a third province within the Church of England for those opposed.

But supporters of women bishops are confident that victory is near.

The dioceses of Guildford, Worcester, Ripon and Leeds, Southwark and St Albans have already put forward motions in favour of women bishops.

Two women have so far risen to become cathedral deans: and the Very Rev June Osborne at Salisbury and Vivienne Faull at Leicester are regarded as front runners for a bishopric. Some other countries, notably the US, Canada and New Zealand, already have female bishops.

The report's publication may re-open open a division in the church as deep as the rift over gay bishops, which has almost caused the break-up of the worldwide Anglican communion.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that the Bishop of Salisbury suggested traditionalists should consider leaving the Church of England, if it backs the ordination of women bishops.

David Stancliffe, Bishop of Salisbury and a supporter of change, said it would be impossible to make special arrangements to cater for members opposed to women leading dioceses. Traditionalists would have to decide whether to accept women bishops or leave the church if they could not.

The Trade and Industry Secretary Minister for Women Patricia Hewitt, also waded into the row at the weekend saying women in the Church should not be constrained by a 'stained glass ceiling'.

"This is a matter for the Church, but I am in principle against any kind of glass ceiling - stained glass or otherwise," she told The Observer .

Hewitt was backed by Chris Bryant, a former priest and chairman of the Christian Socialist Movement, who is now a Labour MP. He said, given almost as many women were being ordained as men, they should receive equal chances.

Although governments have traditionally avoided involvement in Church affairs, the first ordination of women in 1993 became intensely political. High-profile Tories such as Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer converted to Roman Catholicism rather than accept the change.

The report will be debated at the Church of England's General Synod in February next year.

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