Church of England bishops last night cleared the way for historic moves to allow women to become bishops – but with a last-minute olive branch to traditionalists.
Strange things happen at night. The Telegraph reports – but before you go on, and look at the following pic – calm yourself, and keep whispering, Anglicanorum Coetibus, Anglicanorum Coetibus…
In a meeting behind closed doors in York, the Church’s House of Bishops gave its approval to legislation to admit women to the episcopacy and rejected a series of attempts to significantly water down the powers of future female bishops.
But they also agreed a key protection for conservative evangelicals and Anglo Catholics who object to women bishops on theological grounds.
In theory the vote clears the way for the church’s General Synod to have a final vote on the issue in July.
But there were signs it has plunged the Church into further uncertainty amid fears that the compromise failed to satisfy either side in the debate.
It remained unclear last night whether the compromise would be enough to see off the prospect of a large-scale exodus of traditionalists to the Roman Catholic Church or a new breakaway Anglican group.
Equally campaigners for women bishops privately voiced disappointment at the compromise. They fear attempts to make women “second class bishops”
Parishes and dioceses have already signalled strong support for ordaining women as bishops.
But a significant minority of traditionalists cannot accept the authority of a women bishop on theological grounds.
Complicated arrangements have been drawn up to allow to request to opt out and answer to a specially chosen male bishop instead.
The House of Bishops agreed last night that the alternative bishop’s authority would be “delegated” from the woman rather than independent from her and that this arrangement would have legal force.
But they also agreed that traditionalist parishes would have more say in who the alternative bishop would be – potentially undermining the powers of the woman bishop.
In statement the House said: “The legislation now addresses the fact that for some parishes a male bishop or male priest is necessary but not sufficient.
“The House rejected more far- reaching amendments that would have changed the legal basis on which bishops would exercise authority when ministering to parishes unable to receive the ministry of female bishops.”
Are you still saying it? Anglicanorum Coetibus…
The Church of England press release is here.