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[CofE] Church leaders 'back to square one' as talks on women bishops fail
VirtueOnline-News ^ | 6/11/2006 | Jonathan Wynne-Jones

Posted on 06/11/2006 4:46:32 PM PDT by sionnsar

The Church of England's plans to allow women to become bishops are in disarray after its leaders failed to reach agreement on how to introduce the historic reform.

Despite years spent striving to find a way to appease traditionalists opposed to the change, the House of Bishops will ask next month's General Synod for more time to work out a mechanism which they hope will prevent the Church from descending into civil war over the issue.

The fresh delay in drawing up legislation came after one of the Church's most senior female clerics, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, the Dean of Leicester, said that she would have felt unable to become a bishop under the plans that had been proposed.

Those plans, outlined in a report drawn up by a group chaired by the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Christopher Hill, suggested transferring the responsibility for traditionalist parishes to bishops sympathetic to their views.

Bishops, who met last week in Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, are deeply divided over the issue and are now "back to square one", a situation that will dismay campaigners for women bishops who have become frustrated by the delays to the proposed reforms. The Church had been due to begin drawing up legislation to remove the bar to women becoming bishops earlier this year, but decided it needed more time to explore the implications.

Next month, the General Synod will vote on whether to take the legislative process forward and on ensuring that traditionalists are given safeguards.

A new legislative group, intended to restart the process of finding a way of taking the reform forward while avoiding an exodus of traditionalist parishes, will also be set up.

Meanwhile, the traditionalists, encouraged by the bishops' failure to decide on a system to enable women to become bishops, will reissue their demands for a 'third province', which would establish an enclave of male-only clergy. However, securing agreement on how best to ensure that traditionalists have adequate safeguards is likely to lead to a fresh round of infighting.

A senior source said that the bishops had last week found it impossible to reach a consensus.

"We haven't been able to come up with a workable proposal that would accommodate the different sides," the source said. "Despite a long period of discussion and argument, arriving at the Synod with a clear proposal from the House of Bishops for taking it forward is not something that we have been able to do.

"Nothing's off the table, but I'd be surprised if anyone tells you that they know the way forward."

The Rev Geoffrey Kirk, the National Secretary of Forward in Faith, a traditionalist Anglo-Catholic group that represent 400 parishes, said: "Effectively, we are going back to square one. It has been a colossal waste of time, but at least we have a seat at the table now. We will only settle for a third province."

However, the creation of a third province would be unacceptable to women priests, who feel that it would reduce women to second-class citizens.

"We have to ensure that in law bishops, regardless of their gender, are regarded as bishops," said Dean Faull.

She added that the fresh delay would come as a disappointment to campaigners for women bishops, but that she would have been unable to perform as a bishop under the proposals put forward by Bishop Hill.

Christina Rees, who chairs Watch, a group that campaigns for women bishops, said: "We need to move forward as soon as possible with legislation that does not discriminate against women. We need a positive resolution on this issue, otherwise we will be in a perpetual state of indecision."

Campaigners had hoped to see the first women consecrated as soon as 2012. However, this has become increasingly unrealistic as the Church struggles to agree on how to produce legislation that is acceptable to both sides.

TOPICS: Mainline Protestant

1 posted on 06/11/2006 4:46:37 PM PDT by sionnsar
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2 posted on 06/11/2006 4:47:22 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† | Iran Azadi | SONY: 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0urs)
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