Lutherans Expect Stronger Ties with Anglicans After Women Bishops Vote

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) welcomed this month's decision by the Church of England General Synod to reaffirm its support for women bishops, claiming that the vote had immediately opened the way for stronger ecumenical ties between Lutheran and Anglican churches and "the fuller recognition and celebration of the gifts of women called to ministry."

In a statement released this past week, the Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the LWF, spoke positively of the experience of Lutheran churches with women bishops since the first consecrations in 1992.

It was, he said, "already clear that the leadership of women in all the roles of ordained ministry has been a blessing to those churches which have experienced it."

The Lutheran leader went on to state that women bishops in the Church of England would "bring gifts of leadership for the enrichment of the entire Anglican Communion."

Earlier this month, after a six-hour debate, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to support consecrating women as bishops while rejecting safeguards that supporters of male-only priesthood had sought.

The Synod had already agreed to the ordination of women bishops in principle but was deciding on whether to confirm the process towards the first ordinations as well as possible concessions for church members and clergy who hold more traditional, orthodox views and cannot accept the ministry of women as bishops.

Some traditionalists argued that they are being discriminated against and have threatened to leave the church if safeguards are not put into place.

In his statement, Noko acknowledged that there were divisions in the LWF as well as the Anglican Communion over the theological grounds for the ordination of women.

"Discerning the ways of faithfulness is a road we must walk together," assured the LWF leader.

"On this issue, as on others which remain controversial in our communions, no one has yet articulated the insights which can be convincing to all other positions," he claimed.

"We accompany prayerfully the Church of England as she seeks pastoral means to embrace those who remain of an opinion different than the Synod's decision."

It is important to note that Monday's vote to confirm the process towards the first ordinations was not a final decision. The legislation will be debated at next year's Synod before being passed over to dioceses for approval.

Still, Noko said that the vote had removed an "obstacle" to deeper relations among the Porvoo Communion of Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches and Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland.

"The Porvoo Communion is an inspiration for relations between Lutherans and Anglicans in many places around the globe, and we are very pleased that this obstacle to the fullness of its life in communion can now be removed," he said.

According to The Times of London, Church of England legislators are currently working on drafting new legislation to turn the July 7 vote into reality. The ensuing document will be debated at next February's Synod in London before being passed over to dioceses for approval. A final vote is not likely to be taken for another two to three years.