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Church of England clears way for first female bishops

world Updated: Nov 18, 2014 02:45 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar

Two years after a move to allow woman to stand as bishops was shot down by six votes, the Church of England’s general synod on Monday formally adopted a historic legislation that could see the first female bishops in 2015, breaking centuries of male-dominated tradition.

The first women priests were ordained in England in 1994, but they were not able to take on the Church’s most senior roles, mainly due to differences between Anglicans who feel it is consistent with their faith and traditionalists who disagree.

There was much jubilation among campaigners after the vote in the general synod, the law-making body of the Church of England.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said, “Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together. ”

The Church said that four currently vacant dioceses were waiting to appoint a male or female diocesan bishop: Southwell and Nottingham, Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle.

Hilary Cotton, chairwoman of Women and the Church (Watch), said she would like to see women ultimately make up a third of bishops, around 40 posts, “in order to make a difference”.

The lay synod member, who has been campaigning for women in the church for over a decade, said, “It is not just about having women wearing purple, it is about changing the culture of the church to be more equal”.

The Very Reverend Jane Hedges, the first female dean of Norwich, said she thought “people were surprised at how quickly women were accepted as priests” but added the road to them becoming bishops had in some ways taken longer.

The conservative evangelical group Reform, which opposes the move, maintained that “the divine order of male headship” makes it “inappropriate” for women to lead dioceses.