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Last Updated: Monday, 16 January 2006, 15:28 GMT
Compromise plan on women bishops
Rt Rev Christopher Hill
The report chairman described the plan as a way forward
A working party of Church of England bishops is hoping to head off a potential split with a compromise plan on the ordination of woman bishops.

Its report suggests a group of male bishops - so called "flying bishops" - could work in parishes unwilling to accept the authority of a woman.

Calls to set up a separate division of the Church have been rejected.

The General Synod voted in July to begin the process which could lead to the consecration of women bishops.

The move comes amid a row over the ordination of openly gay priests and nearly 12 years after woman were first able to become clergy.

'Frailty and division'

The Church of England said the first women bishops could be ordained by 2012.

It said all bishops' posts would be open to women although the introduction of a female Archbishop of Canterbury - the leader of the Anglican Church - would require additional consideration by a government-appointed commission.

The Church's report was drafted by a committee headed by the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Christopher Hill.

It proposed the appointment of a special group of male bishops as part of a scheme called Transferred Episcopal Arrangements (TEA).

Are people like me to be driven out of the Church of England or not?
John Broadhurst
Bishop of Fulham

"TEA is an honest acknowledgement of our frailty and division in this hugely significant area of our life," the report notes.

"We believe TEA is the most inclusive and realistic way forward."

The report is due to be debated at the General Synod of the Church of England next month.

Bishop Hill said "critics will have the chance to demonstrate where we have gone wrong and the Synod will then have the opportunity to weigh both the merits and objections to our proposals".

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and his second-in-command, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, have said they have no theological objections to women bishops.

Serious problems

Many traditionalists, who argue there is no biblical precedent for women bishops, had called for the creation of "third province", a church within the Church of England, free of women clergy.

According to BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggott up to 400 clergy have threatened to leave the Church of England without separate autonomy.

The row, however, has also prompted a number of bishops, who were once prepared to vote for a compromise plan, to now say they intend to push for outright equality for women.

Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has said he has no theological objections to the move

Penny Driver, who has just been appointed Archdeacon of Exeter, the step immediately below a bishop, told the BBC the Church must have the courage to treat women equally.

"The history of the church is that we've been having splits for many hundreds of years.

"I hope that doesn't happen and I hope we find a way forward to actually work with the difference rather than split it."

Christina Rees, a member of the Church of England Synod and chair of the Women and the Church group, said the plans could prevent a split.

"These proposals will accommodate absolutely everyone except those who really do not want to be in a church where there is the possibility where they may have anything to do with the sacramental ministry of a woman," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The Bishop of Fulham, John Broadhurst, chairman of the Forward in Faith group which is opposed to the ordination of women bishops, said a "serious problem" remains.

"Are people like me to be driven out of the Church of England or not? And if people want to provide for us they really do have to talk to us," he said.


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