Church of England Prepares for Heated Women Bishops Debate

The Church of England on Saturday released draft legislation that would open up the way for women to become bishops.

The new set of proposals is expected to be divisive and cause some to even leave the body as most provisions accommodating opponents to female bishops were thrown out.

In a 142-page report, the revision committee acknowledged "the fact" that they "have not been able to come up with a set or proposals that everyone now says that they can live with." But the committee went on to state that the conclusions they reached reflect what the majority of them believe to be "both principled and pragmatic."

"The status quo, with women able to minister as priests but not as bishops, no longer accords with the wish of the majority of the Synod," the report states. "But the journey to a new destination remains contested and challenging."

Over the past year, the revision committee considered nearly 300 submissions for amendment from throughout the Church of England, many of which asked for provisions for more traditional Anglicans who do not believe Scripture supports female bishops.

Many of the requests, however, were rejected.

Some had advocated for the creation of additional dioceses as the best way of maintaining unity in the Church of England while respecting the integrity of those with divergent views. Additional dioceses would allow the ministry of those who do not accept women bishops to flourish.

The majority of the review committee, however, concluded that the disadvantages were too great. Creating additional dioceses would damage the integrity of the historic dioceses and institutionalize separation between the various parts of the church body, the committee argued.

The draft legislation still provides a way for parishes unable to accept women bishops to petition for a complementary male bishop.

The new draft will be debated at the General Synod in July.

Opponents of female bishops, including some in the review committee, have indicated that if such legislation is approved and adopted, they "will seriously have to consider whether they can continue to hold office within the Church of England, or continue as members of it," the committee report notes.

Three Anglo-Catholic members who served on the revision committee released a statement expressing deep disappointment in the outcome of the committee's work.

"Anglicans in general – and the Church of England in particular – have always insisted that no-one is to be penalized or marginalized for adhering to the traditional view about gender and the ordained ministry. Those who hold this view are not dissenters or reactionaries but ... are loyal members of their church and deserve an honored place in it," the three, including Bishop of Beverley the Rt. Rev. Martyn Jarrett, stated.

But the draft legislation currently before the General Synod would cut off the life blood of the "traditionalists" and force them out from the Church of England, they cautioned.

They added, "A narrower and more exclusive church would be the result."

The earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval is 2012.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In World