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CHURCH OF ENGLAND: Bishops meet to discuss women joining them

Bishops meet to discuss women joining them
by Pat Ashworth

THE Church of England’s Bishops will look at a draft report on women bishops this month, at its first meeting of 2004, but it is likely to be the end of the year before anything is published.

A motion before the Synod in July 2000 asked the Bishops to “initiate further study on the episcopate focusing on the issues that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the episcopate in the Church of England and to make a progress report on this study to Synod in July 2002”.

No View from Rochester
The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who chairs the working group, would make no comment this week in advance of the Bishops’ meeting.

His chaplain, Canon Chris Stone, said on Monday that all options for the future were being examined in the draft report. “It is setting out the issues rather than trying to answer them,” he said. The document had no official status, and the House of Bishops could send it back to the working group to ask for more work to be done.

Speculation is centred on the possibility of creating of a third province in England to accommodate those opposed to women bishops. The Archbishop of Canterbury is on record as looking with “some sympathy” on the option.

Dr Williams told the Church Times in an interview before his election as Archbishop was confirmed: “You can’t indefinitely perpetuate a situation in which, in one body, the ministry of some is regarded wholly negatively” (29 November 2002).

Scots view
The Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted in June 2003 to admit women to the episcopate. Women candidates are thought to be on the nominations list for the current vacancy for the Bishop of Argyll & the Isles, but are less likely to be on the shortlist, which is due to be announced in February or March.

It “could well happen” that a woman was nominated from the Church of England, said the Revd Alison Wagstaff, co-ordinator of the Movement for Whole Ministry, a Scottish group campaigning for women’s involvement, on Tuesday.

There was no debate on a further province or alternative episcopal oversight in the Scottish Church. “We had a very strong College of Bishops, led by Richard Holloway, who were all exceedingly against any idea of flying bishops,” said Mrs Wagstaff.


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