Church of England paves way for women bishops
LONDON - Reuters
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu (L), speaks next to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby at the General Synod in Church House in central London November 20, 2013. REUTERS photoThe Church of England's law-making body voted in favour of female bishops Nov. 20, a move that ended a 20-year impasse and could see women ordained as senior clergy by the end of 2014.
A vote on a package of measures endorsing women bishops was supported by 378 members of the General Synod while eight voted against and 25 abstained.
A year ago, a blocking minority succeeded in rejecting draft legislation on women bishops, leaving the church fractured, with a senior church official calling the failed vote a "train crash".
The issue of female clergy has divided Anglicanism, with women already serving as bishops in the United States, Australia, and Canada but churches in many developing countries opposing such a move.
The spiritual head of the Church of England, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, supports women bishops but the mother church for the world's 80 million Anglicans has struggled to unite reformers and traditionalists on the issue.
Church leaders set up a committee whose proposals won widespread acceptance in the Synod on Wednesday, even among groups previously opposed to the move. The Synod also needs support for legislation for the changes but officials were confident a vote later on Wednesday would get through.
Among the new recommendations is the creation of an ombudsman who can intervene when traditionalist parishes complain they are not sufficiently "protected" from women bishops' authority .
"We have hard work still to do but we may have found a new model here in how we move ahead," Bishop of Rochester James Langstaff told the Synod.
Langstaff said he was confident a vote on the formal legislative processes would pass the Synod later on Wednesday.
The proposals will then be debated by various church groups and individual dioceses before returning to the Synod for a final decision next November.
The Church approved the ordination of women priests in 1992, but delayed making them bishops because of opposition within its previously all-male clergy. Bishops play a key role in many Christian churches where only they can ordain new clergy.