Anglican Vote on Female Bishops Sparks Threat of Separation
By Thomas Penny
July 8, 2008

July 8 (Bloomberg) -- Traditionalists threatened to quit the Church of England over female bishops, saying that "actions always have consequences," after the church's parliament voted yesterday to go ahead with consecration of women.

Forward in Faith, a worldwide association of Anglicans opposed to women as priests or bishops, said in a statement posted on its Web site that it "regretted" the church's decision not to appoint "super-bishops" to whom opponents of female consecration can turn if a female bishop is appointed to head the church in their area.

Last month, 1,333 serving and retired clergy sent a letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the two most senior figures in the church, saying they would "be asking whether we can, in conscience, continue to minister" if no provision was made for them. They had wanted designated male bishops to whom they would answer.

The Church of England, which voted at its General Synod in York to back female bishops without creating super-bishops, will start drawing up a code of practice to address the concerns of traditionalists, it said. There will be further votes and the final legislation isn't expected to be approved before 2012, church spokesman Ben Wilson said today in a telephone interview.

"The timeline is pretty protracted," Wilson said. "This was by no means the final vote but it was a significant step on the journey."

The measure providing for the consecration of women and an accompanying code of practice passed by a vote of 28 to 12 in the Synod's House of Bishops, by 124 to 44 among the clergy and by 111 to 68 among the laity.

No Super-Bishops

"The effect of the motion is that there would be a statutory code of practice that needs to be worked out. But there will be no structural solutions, no super-bishops," Wilson said.

Some Anglican churches around the world, including the Episcopal Church in the U.S., have voted to consecrate female bishops while others, including the church in Wales, have voted not to.

Another challenge for the church hierarchy will come next week when Anglican bishops gather in Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade meeting of bishops from around the world, where the question of gay clergy will be discussed.

Clergy and church members have threatened to resign and set up alternative branches of the Anglican Church as a result of what they say is the weak response by the hierarchy to the consecration of a gay bishop by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. in 2003.

The Global Anglican Future Conference, held in Jerusalem last month, produced a final declaration that questioned the authority of the archbishop of Canterbury as spiritual leader of worldwide Anglicanism. It also called for the creation of new structures that would allow priests to be under the control of bishops who oppose gay clergy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London
Last Updated: July 8, 2008 07:12 EDT

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