Lutherans Praise Anglican Support for Women Bishops

The Church of Norway praised the recent decision by the Church of England to allow women bishops, as both sides of the vote remain deeply divided.

"The Church of England has taken a bold and mature action knowing well the immediate costs involved," the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway, which the majority of Norwegians are members of, said in a statement Thursday.

The General Synod of the Church of England voted Monday after a six-hour debate to support consecrating women as bishops. But it rejected 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.

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Burnham, said traditionalists are feeling "shipwrecked" and has asked the Pope and Catholic leaders in England to help him and his parishes defect to Rome, according to BBC News. The Roman Catholic Church does not ordain women.

Following the Synod decision, the Vatican condemned the Church of England and said it presents a "further obstacle to reconciliation" between the two major church bodies.

But backing the Church of England, the Church of Norway "warmly" welcomed the Synod decision to open the ministry to women bishops and further praised it as a "significant step" in the consolidation of the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

"Up until the present time," the Church of Norway noted, "the fact that the Church of England did not recognize the ministry of women bishops in the Nordic folk churches set unfortunate limits to the implementation of the Porvoo Common Statement" – an agreement made in 1992 between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches securing common membership and full inter-changeability of ordained clergy.

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

"The Church of Norway, having gone through a similar process some years ago, and having been much blessed by its fruits, shall accompany the Church of England, as a sister church in communion, with gratitude and with prayers of God's blessing and guidance in the time to come," the statement added.

Affirming the role of women in leadership, the Church of Norway stressed, "The gender of ordained ministers cannot be a criterion of the church's apostolicity. On the contrary, the admittance of women to all levels of ordained ministry has contributed significantly to the full expression of God's mission in the world."

Monday's vote was not a final decision. The legislation will be debated at next year's Synod before being passed over to dioceses for approval.