Opinion divided over Church of England’s women bishops proposals

A conservative group in the Church of England has welcomed the promise of male bishops to minister to those who cannot accept women bishops, while those who support women bishops warn they may become “second class” within the Church.

The Chairman of Reform, the Rev Rod Thomas, told Premier Radio that he was “very relieved” that the Revision Committee had voted last week to change draft legislation on the consecration of women as bishops. It means that the powers of some women bishops could be curtailed in the face of opposition from traditionalists.

Rev Thomas said that the original legislation for women bishops “would have effectively unchurched large parts of the Church of England”.

“It would have led to great disunity and a lot of upset,” he said.

Changing legislation to provide for those who could not accept women bishops would help, he said, to “preserve the unity of the Church”.

Ruth McCurry, who chairs a group in support of women bishops, told the Guardian newspaper that the Church of England was “legislating schism into existence” and “creating a two-tier church”.

She warned that women bishops were at risk of becoming “second-class bishops” as a result of the changes.

The Revision Committee said many of the submissions it had received supported a statutory code of practice for those unable on grounds of theological conviction to be under a women bishop.

Rev Thomas said the changes offered “a way in which nobody can lose”.

The draft legislation will be amended and sent out to diocesan synods for consideration before final approval from General Synod.

It added that the first consecration of a woman bishop was not likely to occur before 2014.

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