Seventeen bishops have made a last-minute appeal urging the Church of England to deny women the opportunity to become bishops, ahead of next week’s General Synod.
The bishops argued that the Church needs sufficient time in order to properly discuss the issues, and that therefore any decision to remove the legal impediments for the ordination of women as bishops should be taken with caution.
Writing to The Church of England Newspaper, they warned that any such decision could jeopardise Church relations with its other provinces in the Communion and as well as its ecumenical partners:
"There is ample evidence from church history, not least, and most recently, in the Anglican Communion, that actions by individual provinces touching the scriptural and traditional faith and order of the Church, actions that inevitably unchurch those who cannot accept such changes, do not serve the unity which Christ asks of his Church."
The Rt Rev Tom Wright, one of the letter’s signatories, defended the action, saying, "This matter touches profoundly both the order and identity of the Church of England and its place in the Church as a whole."
Christina Rees, Chair of Women and the Church, and campaigner for women bishops have, however, attacked the bishops’ proposal as "an insult" to the thousands of women priests already serving in the Church of England.
The motion requires a two-thirds majority within all three houses of the General Synod, laity, clergy and bishops, before it can be passed.
Many supporters of women bishops were hopeful for a positive result at the forthcoming Synod but fear this intervention by the bishops jeopardised this.
There are already 14 provinces within the Communion that have already approved women as bishops, with only eight remaining men only.
Rees added that any prolongation of the debate would only damage the Church more and that the majority of the Church accepted women as bishops. There has, she says, already been a proper debate on the issue:
"This has been on our agenda for 30 years. The time is now right. The exasperation most people in the Church feel that this has not happened yet is very high. We have already exhausted the issues."
Church of England urged not to Allow Women Bishops
Published 01 July 2005