Support for women bishops in Church of England

The Daily Mail reports that more than 4,000 Anglicans have given their support to calls for the introduction of women bishops without special legislation to protect opponents of the move. Supporters gathered today at Westminster Abbey for a press conference in advance of the General Synod this coming weekend in York.

Campaigners for the consecration of women bishops said 1,276 women clergy, 1,012 male clergy and 1,916 lay Church of England members have backed a move for women bishops to be introduced but without measures such as new provinces for those who object.

Ruth Gledhill said that “senior clergy from the Abbey, St Paul’s and Southwark… as well as MPs and Baroness Howe of the Lords” were there.

The Telegraph reports:

“This is a very important moment for the Church. It is the logical, inevitable and right course,” said Canon Winkett, who is widely tipped as an early candidate for consecration as bishop under the proposed new law. “It is right in principle and timing. But not at any cost. We would rather wait than see legislation [to provide for] those who in conscience can’t accept women bishops.”

An official Church report from a working group chaired by the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, in April set out the options for the introduction of women bishops, including a separate “diocese” enshrined in law for those who could not accept a woman as their bishop. The House of Bishops has recommended that no such legal provision should be applied, but that a simple code of conduct should provide for dissenters, directing clergy to respect the consciences of traditionalists.

Rev Christina Rees, chair of Women And The Church (WATCH) read out messages of support from a Methodist, a Roman Catholic priest and Robert Key, Conservative MP for Salisbury, who said: “I cannot believe in the 21st century Jesus Christ would teach discrimination.”

The Mail says that the event “was attended by a number of figures including Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, and Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda.”

Baroness Elspeth Howe, who has served as deputy chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission and is the wife of former Chancellor Baron Howe, was also present to give her support.

Mrs Cryer is an a honorary lay canon of Bradford Cathedral and a member of the Cathedral council, whose step-daughter is to be ordained as an Anglican priest this week.

She said she had tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons calling for legal obstacles to be removed preventing women from being consecrated as bishops in the Church of England.

Referring to her step-daughter, she said: ‘I think she is going to be a wonderful parish priest, I think she could even be a bishop.

‘I will live with the fact if she never becomes a bishop, although I think she would make a wonderful one.

‘What I would not be able to live with is that she possibly cannot be a bishop because there is legislation against it.’

Mr Bryant, who was ordained a Church of England priest in 1986, but resigned orders in order to stand for Parliament in 1997, said: ‘I think we can assume that there is wholehearted, if not unanimous support in the House of Commons for women bishops.

‘I am absolutely sure that support will be on the basis of complete equality, not hampered or fettered equality, with women bishops somehow or other still wearing a chain that attaches them back to the kitchen sink.’

Lady Howe, who sits on the independent benches, said it would be a ‘great pleasure’ if there were a ‘few’ women bishops in the House of Lords.

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