The Church of England's General Synod has said it will go ahead with installing women as bishops, but a delay in draft legislation has left many frustrated and uncertain about how the plan will work in practice.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, will use his Presidential address to Synod today (9 February 2010) to combat threats of disintegration in the Church of England.
The hardline evangelical group, Reform, has been lobbying hard for opt-out provision for those who reject the ministry of women, though the majority of evangelicals do not support their view or their tactics.
Meanwhile, Women and the Church (WATCH) and others argue strongly that provisions which would lead to women bishops being constrained in ways that their male counterparts are not, would be wrong both procedurally and theologically.
Yesterday the Bishop of Manchester expressed his regret at the delay to a debate on the consecration of women as bishops in the Church of England.
The C of E's governing body was due to discuss women bishops at a week-long meeting in London this week, but the Revision Committee, assigned to draft legislation, failed to meet the deadline.
The committee will now present draft proposals in time for the next Synod in July, in York, northern England.
The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch told General Synod that the scale of the task had made it "impossible" for the Revision Committee.
The committee has received nearly 300 submissions in the nine months since it was charged with drafting the legislation at last year’s February Synod.
“It has been an extraordinary logistical challenge for the committee to ensure that everyone has the say that they are entitled to,” the bishop declared.
The Revision Committee has defended itself against accusations of deliberately delaying the debate because of the contentious nature of the issue.
Bishop McCulloch assured Synod that the legislation would be ready for consideration several weeks before the July meeting.
The draft legislation rules out conferring jurisdiction on anyone other than the diocesan bishop, meaning there will be no “super flying bishops” for those who oppose women. Rather, arrangements for parishes that object to women’s ordination will be on the basis of delegation from diocesan bishops, McCulloch said.
He added: “We very much regret that the scale of the task made it impossible for us to conclude the Revision Committee stage in time for this group of sessions. That was always our target and we did our level best."
The bishop continued: “The key point is that the work of the Revision Committee is just one of many important stages in a process. The task of the Revision Committee is to send back to the Synod something that will provide a coherent basis for the next – and potentially most crucial – phase of the discussion, in which the whole Synod will have to revisit many of the arguments with which we have agonised for so long.”
Together with the role and status of gay people in ministry and the recognition of same-sex partnerships or marriages, the ordination of women remains a contentious issue within the Anglican Communion, which claims 77 million members worldwide.
Some Anglo-Catholics have threatened to leave the Church and switch to Rome after an offer made in October 2009 by Pope Benedict.
In an open letter from 50 clergy, Reform warned that it would finance the training of new ordinands outside the Church of England should women bishops go ahead without measures to mollify opponents.
Anglicans in the United States, Canada and New Zealand have women bishops, and the Scottish Episcopal Church is waiting to elect what will probably be Britain's first Anglican woman in an Episcopal role.
General Synod - Summary of Business Conducted on Monday 8th February 2010 PM - http://www.cofe.anglican.org/news/gsfeb080210pm.html
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