Church of England Confirms Support for Women Bishops

After lengthy debate, the Church of England's General Synod voted on Monday to confirm its support for the ordination of women as bishops without offering much in the way of safeguards for objectors.

The Synod had already agreed to the ordination of women bishops in principle but was voting on Monday night on legislation to confirm the process towards the first ordinations as well as possible concessions for church members and clergy opposed to female bishops.

Much to the disappointment of the more traditional Anglicans, members rejected proposals to create new dioceses for objectors and to appoint "super bishops" who would have offered alternative care for opponents.

Synod members voted at the York meeting to instead implement a voluntary national code to accommodate objectors. Bishops voted 28 to 12, clergy by 124 to 44 and the laity by 111 to 68.

The idea of "super bishops" had enjoyed the support of the Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, meanwhile stressed to the Synod his view that a "systematic marginalization" of Anglo-Catholics would be wrong. He was quoted by The Times as describing traditionalists as a "necessary abrasion."

Adding that he does not want to limit the authority of women bishops, Williams said, "I am deeply unhappy with any scheme or any solution to this which ends up, as it were, structurally humiliating women who might be nominated," as reported by The Associated Press.

The vote casts a shadow of uncertainty over ongoing efforts between the Church of England and the Vatican to achieve "full visible unity." On Tuesday, the Vatican condemned the Church of England's support for women to become bishops, noting it as a move breaking with tradition. Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, said the decision will have consequences for dialogue which had so far been "fruitful."

Dialogue between the two church bodies has already been on the rocks because of concessions to homosexual clergy in parts of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Church legislators will now get to work on drafting new legislation to turn the vote into reality, reports The Times. 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.

Women have been allowed to become priests since 1994, but they have not received the green light to become bishops in the church.

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