Members of the Church of England's General Synod have been told that it is 'highly unlikely' that a vote on whether to allow women to become bishops will be taken before 2010.
Twenty six Church of England bishops sit in the House of Lords, so the UK Parliament looks set to continue in the meantime to be the only democracy in the world with places exclusively reserved for men.
The latest information came from the Chair of the Legislative Drafting Group.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, chair of the group preparing the draft legislation for women bishops, outlined the process and predicted the likely time it would take.
The bishop’s statement shocked a large number of Synod members, who met and expressed their outrage at the length of time the process was taking.
The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, one of the youngest members of Synod, said she only learned in theological college that women still couldn’t be bishops.
“Many people, especially young people, are unaware that women can't be bishops in the Church of England, and are horrified when they discover that the Church currently has such inequality enshrined in legislation. Synod voted over two years
ago to remove this barrier. Let's just get on with it.”
Revd Mark Bennet commented “The wider church has been waiting for women to be made bishops, yet the House of Bishops seems afraid to push this forward. Instead, discredited theological arguments are being rehashed, while our existing leaders
hold tight to the power they have.”
Christina Rees, chair of WATCH (Women and The Church) said “One could be forgiven for thinking that everything possible is being done to slow down the process. At this rate, it might well be eight years between Synod voting to remove the legal barriers to women bishops and actually appointing a woman as a bishop. Meanwhile, the Church is still sending out the message that men are more privileged and valued than women.”
A new Synod will be elected in the autumn of 2010, with the first meeting taking place in November. It is not clear what would happen to the progress of legislation for women bishops if the final vote is not taken during the lifetime of the current Synod.