Church of England at loggerheads over women bishops
LONDON (Reuters) - The Church of England said on Monday it would go ahead with installing women as bishops, but a delay in draft legislation has left liberals and traditionalists alike uncertain about how the plan will work in practice.
Together with homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages, the ordination of women is among the most divisive issues facing the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members worldwide.
Some Anglo-Catholics in the Church of England, the Anglican mother church, have threatened to leave and switch to Rome after an offer made last October by Pope Benedict.
Church leaders at the General Synod, or parliament, were due to discuss women bishops at a week-long meeting in London this week, but the Revision Committee, assigned to draft legislation, failed to meet the deadline.
The committee, which is struggling to accommodate liberals who demand equality and traditionalists who want to keep an all-male senior clergy, will present draft proposals in time for the next Synod in July, in York, northern England.
Anglicans in the United States, Canada and New Zealand have women bishops, although the Scottish Episcopal Church failed to elect Britain's first woman bishop in a ballot last month.
The Revision Committee has yet to decide whether women bishops, approved in principle but none yet nominated, will have full Episcopal powers rather than limited powers.
Martin Dales, spokesman for the Synod's Catholic Group, told Reuters there was the "huge danger of a haemorrhage" unless sufficient pastoral provision was secured for those who oppose women bishops.
Reform, another traditionalist group, warned there could be a drastic cut in the future intake of young ordinands.
Synod officials last month denied the legislation delay had been deliberate to stymie the traditionalists, saying it was a complex issue.
Anglo-Catholics have postponed their decision on whether to move to Rome.
Conservatives say as Jesus Christ's apostles were all men, there is nothing in the Bible to support women bishops.
One in six of England's parish priests is a woman and, 16 years after they were first ordained, liberals say it is insulting not to admit women to positions of power.
Christina Rees, chair of the pro-women bishops group Women and the Church (WATCH), told Reuters she was disappointed by the delay but "at least it has left no stone unturned in its deliberations."
(Editing by Michael Roddy)
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