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Last Updated: Monday, 9 January 2006, 09:13 GMT
Anglicans to debate women bishops
Women priest
Women have served as priests for more than a decade
Talks are due to start on whether the Church of England should allow the ordination of women bishops.

The meeting of bishops in Leeds will debate a document that reportedly backs the controversial move.

The Times reports that a woman could be consecrated by 2012 under proposals in a leaked copy of the document.

The document also proposes allowing new regional bishops for parishes that choose to opt out of the care of a woman bishop, the report says.

'Strong views'

The document is due to be published next week and debated by the Church of England General Synod in February.

A Church of England spokesman said: "This is a debate which has been long-running and lots of people within the Church have strong views at either end of the spectrum.

"I would not think the publication of this report compounds any of this, really."

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott has said those opposing women bishops are insisting on the creation of a separate division of the church with male-only clergy.

And bishops who advocate the consecration of women and were once prepared to vote for a compromise plan say they intend to push for outright equality for women, with no concessions.

A compromise plan had been thought to offer parishes who object to women bishops a male traditionalist instead.

Global row

A row over the ordination of openly gay priests has led the worldwide Anglican Communion to the brink of schism.

In November last year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, warned against internal tensions over homosexuality and the appointment of women bishops.

Dr Rowan Williams

His comments came months after the Church of England decided to remove the legal blocks stopping women becoming bishops.

He told members of the General Synod they should beware of "poisoning the wells" and ought to conduct debates without hostility.

When women were first ordained Church of England priests in 1994, about 400 Anglican clergy became Roman Catholics in protest.

There are now more than 2,000 women Anglican priests.

Their supporters believe it is illogical and unfair to continue to bar them from becoming bishops.

Opposition camps

The opposition to women bishops falls into two separate camps.

The catholic wing of the Anglican Church focuses on Jesus' choice of only men to be his apostles, insisting that it is a clear sign that clergy should also be male.

Meanwhile, conservative evangelicals maintain that the Bible prohibits women from leadership in the Church.

Fourteen of the world's 38 Anglican Churches have already decided to allow women bishops.


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