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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006, 18:13 GMT
Synod backs women bishops plan
Women priest
Women have served as priests for more than a decade
The Church of England's ruling body has backed consideration of a compromise plan that could see the ordination of women bishops by 2012.

The General Synod voted for "further exploration" of a scheme that would also allow parishes that did not want a woman bishop to opt for a man instead.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, had called for the body to back the proposal.

He said the church was "in schism" and the status quo was not an option.

Compromise sought

Dr Williams said: "It is not a question of legislating for schism or providing for schism or whatever - we are there already.

"A question is how we handle it prayerfully, mindfully and decently and, I would add, hopefully."

The Church hopes the Transferred Episcopal Arrangements scheme will avoid a damaging row and possibly a walkout by some traditionalists who believe the priesthood should be reserved for men.

Last November Dr Williams warned against internal tensions over homosexuality and the appointment of women bishops.

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

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

'Illogical and unfair'

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.

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

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

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

A stained glass ceiling?
09 Feb 06 |  UK

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