Vote to rubber stamp women bishops

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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The Church of England is set to shatter its “stained glass ceiling” today by voting in favour of appointing women bishops.

The Anglican General Synod is expected to approve legislation allowing women to be nominated and chosen for the senior posts “in minutes” when it meets in London.

The move, which comes 20 years after the first women priests were ordained, could see the first female bishop appointed next year.

The move has been welcomed by long-term campaigners for change, who see it as the first step to widening female participation in the CofE.

Hilary Cotton, chairwoman of Women and the Church (Watch), said she would like to see women ultimately make up a third of bishops, around 40 posts, “in order to make a difference”.

The lay Synod member, who has been campaigning for women in the church for more than a decade, said: “Until we get to around a third it doesn’t change the culture, or it is much harder to change it.

“It is not just about having women wearing purple, it is about changing the culture of the church to be more equal.

“It is exciting but I hope that in a few years it will be more normal for women to be appointed bishops.”

The first diocese vacancy to come up after the “canon” law is changed will be Southwell and Nottingham, after the Rt Rev Paul Butler was appointed as Bishop of Durham. It will be followed by Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle.

Several priests whose names have been suggested as the first female bishops include the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster, and the Very Rev June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury Cathedral.

Along with gay marriage, the issue of women bishops has dominated religious debate in recent years.

The first women were ordained in 1994 in the Church of England and they now make up about a third of clergy.

The plan to allow them to stand as bishops was derailed by just six votes cast by lay members in November 2012, causing shock and bitter recriminations within the Church of England and prompting threats of an intervention by Parliament.

The General Synod overwhelmingly backed legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England in July and today’s vote will rubber stamp the move.

In October, the Church said that positive discrimination could be used to install “under-represented” female bishops in diocese.

Synod member Christina Rees, who has campaigned for women in the church for 25 years, said women should eventually make up a high proportion of senior roles.

She said it would change the public perception that the church had a “a problem with women” and said there was nothing preventing a female bishop being appointed straight away.

The senior or diocesan bishops are chosen by a committee from a list of candidates, but there are also suffragan or assistant bishops who can be appointed by a diocesan, she said.

Ms Rees said: “As far as I am concerned, by Tuesday any bishop can pick up the phone to a woman and say, ‘I would like you to be my next suffragan’.

“I don’t see the problem with a quick appointment of a (female) suffragan but of course it would be exciting if the first was a diocesan.

“The stained glass ceiling is finally being shattered.”

Published: Monday 17th November 2014 by The News Editor

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