Church of England to appoint first 'headship' bishop

The Church of England is to appoint its first bishop explicitly chosen because of his conservative evangelical stance against the consecration of women.

The "headship" bishop will fill the suffragan see of Maidstone, which has been vacant since 2009, but will have a national remit.

The decision follows a proposal from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to the dioceses commission which met this week.

The Church's bishops committed themselves to making episcopal provision for conservative evangelicals as well as traditionalists as the legislation to consecrate women bishops progressed successfully through General Synod and Parliament earlier this year.

The headship argument is a Bible-based teaching from the writings of St Paul who stated that the man should be the "head" of the woman. Many conservative evangelicals believe that men have different but complementary roles to women.

The Church said: "In agreeing with the proposal to fill the see, the commission was conscious of the needs of the national church for a member of the college of bishops to be able to act as an advocate for those who hold a conservative position on headship."

The new bishop will foster vocations among conservative evangelicals and, with the agreement of the diocesan bishop, will pastor in parishes across the provinces of Canterbury and York that cannot accept the ministry of a woman bishop.

Rev Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said: "We are very glad to that the creation of such a post has been approved. It is very good news. Once acted upon, it will provide reassurance both for conservative evangelicals and for those who have been keen to see women bishops."