Anglican Synod affirms women bishops; debate draws mixed reactions

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July 9, 2006

Anglican Synod affirms women bishops; debate draws mixed reactions

[Episcopal News Service] Ending centuries of tradition, the Church of England voted to welcome and affirm “the view of the majority of the House of Bishops that admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is consonant with the faith of the Church” after a two-hour debate July 8 during the Church’s General Synod, meeting at York University, England.

The motion was carried after a vote by houses resulted in bishops voting 31 in favor and 9 against, clergy voting 134 in favor and 42 against, and laity voting 123 in favor and 68 against.

The motion affirms only the principle of women bishops, but in order to change the Church’s canons so that women can legally be appointed to the episcopate, a two-thirds majority in each house would be required. Further debate on the issue is scheduled for July 10, when a motion that addresses the process of ordaining women to the episcopate will be presented.

The full text of the motion, moved by the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, follows:

“That this Synod welcome and affirm the view of the majority of the House of Bishops that admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is consonant with the faith of the Church as the Church of England has received it and would be a proper development in proclaiming afresh in this generation the grace and truth of Christ.”

Synod voted last year to remove the legal obstacles that prevent women from becoming bishops over the coming years, the first legislative step in the process.

The February 2006 meeting of General Synod received and debated two reports on Women in the Episcopate and welcomed the assessments made of the options for removing those obstacles.

During an open debate before the July 8 vote, several Synod members raised concerns about the impact such a motion could have on ecumenical relations, especially in light of recent comments from Roman Catholic Cardinal Walter Kasper at the June House of Bishops meeting when he urged the Church of England not to approve women bishops because it “would immediately impact on the question of the unity of the Church and with it the goal of ecumenical dialogue.”

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