Opponents of women bishops in C of E will persist

By Ecumenical News International
July 17, 2010

Some commentators are saying that the Church of England will be unable to stop a war over the issue of ordaining women as bishops after a recent vote by its ruling general synod - write Trevor Grundy and Luigi Sandri.

Earlier this week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the spiritual head of the church and the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said his church has still not "cracked" all the problems associated with ordaining women as bishops.

A proposal put forward by Williams and the second highest ranking Church of England cleric, Archbishop John Sentamu, had sought to appease both opponents and supporters of the measure, but was defeated on 10 July.

After telling synod members that he was determined to hold the church together, Williams said, "We have not yet cracked how to do that." He asserted that "unfinished business" remains and that the church is "only part of the way through the process" towards women bishops.

In Rome, the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, on 14 July published an article noting problems and contradictions arising from the synod decision.

"At the York synod the weakness of the proposal [put forward by Williams] emerged as it did not consider the diversities of traditions present in the same community," the newspaper noted.

It did not quote directly the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. The newspaper noted, however, that the then pope, John Paul II, in 1994, proclaimed that the will of Christ does not in any way accept the consecration of women as bishops.

Members of the Church of England's general synod on 12 July voted to allow women to be ordained as bishops, prompting threats from traditionalists opposed to the move, to leave the church. That measure now needs to be discussed by the church's 43 diocesan synods before a further vote at the General Synod in 2012.

Groups supporting and opposing the ordination of women as bishops issued statements after the vote, indicating that the church still has to face infighting on the issues.

A group known as Reform, founded in 1993, which describes itself as a network committed to reforming the church from within, said the decision "does not provide a secure future" for the future ministry within the church of opponents of women bishops.

The group said, "The provisions made for those who cannot in conscience accept the oversight of a female bishop are inadequate."

A statement from Forward in Faith, a group opposing women bishops, said the draft measure to permit the ordination of women as bishops "contains nothing which can satisfy the legitimate needs of members".
A women's rights campaigner who requested anonymity told ENInews, "Reform and Forward in Faith are not short of money and they'll do their level best to get people sympathetic to their causes elected to the houses of laity and clergy," she stated. "Bruised and excluded they may be. Beaten, they are not. The war has not been won. We've a few battles to win yet."

The director of Forward in Faith, Stephen Parkinson, told ENInews that some Evangelicals opposed to women bishops might seek closer ties to Anglican churches such as that in Nigeria. At the same time many Anglo-Catholics could seek accommodation with the Catholic Church.

Church sources said that after women were ordained priests in 1994, 441 clergy resigned and the Church of England paid out 27 million British pounds (US$41.5 million) in compensation.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]


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