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The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"The traditionalists feature some of the Church's biggest hitters"
 real 56k

Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Women bishops under debate
Women priests
The issue of women bishops could divide the church
The Church of England is to debate whether to allow women priests to become bishops.

The General Synod is meeting in York to discuss the controversial subject, which arouses intense feelings and has the potential to create deep splits within the church.

There are already 2,000 women clergy members but at present they are forbidden from rising to the highest ranks of the church.

The Synod is expected to order a theological inquiry into the possibility of allowing them to become bishops.

Intense feelings

Supporters of women bishops argue there is no logic in allowing women into the church and then creating a glass ceiling to stop them rising to the most senior positions.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent, Emily Buchanan, said if the decision could create "huge organisational problems".

She said traditionalists may demand their parishes be guaranteed free of women clergy and of male priests ordained by them.

The ordination of women priests was introduced six years ago and the role of females in the church continues to dominate the General Synod's agenda.

Threatened

A survey published in March by the University of Bristol revealed women priests in the UK feel they are discriminated against, bullied and intimidated.

Some have received hate mail, some been branded witches and some threatened with rape.

It was the first major study of women priests, and stated that nearly half of male clergy refused to take communion from their women colleagues.

And two-thirds of women priests said their male counterparts were rude and difficult to work with.

Their congregations are not happy either - nearly 70% say parishioners have refused to receive communion from them.

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28 Jul 99 | UK
Church women call the shots
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