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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 November 2006, 19:59 GMT
'No doubts' over ordaining women
Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Rowan Williams is due to visit the Pope in Rome
There is no theological reason to revisit the issue of ordaining women, the Archbishop of Canterbury says.

Rowan Williams' comments come after he told the Catholic Herald divisions in the Anglican Church had "tested" his belief it was the right thing to do.

But on Thursday he insisted he was not "doubtful" about ordaining women, nor had he felt it was wrong.

The Church of England first ordained women as priests in 1994 and had 1,262 serving women priests in 2002.

The archbishop had told the newspaper he could "just about envisage a situation in which, over a very long period, the Anglican Church thought about it again, but I would need to see what the theological reason for that would be".

'No theological justification'

But on Thursday Dr Williams clarified his remarks, saying: "From the very beginning of this issue I have been a supporter of the ordination of women and have not doubted the rightness of the decision or the blessings it has brought."

I feel nothing less than full support for the decision the Church of England made in 1992
Dr Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

He said reports that the Anglican Church would reconsider the ordination of women were "wilfully misleading".

"I made it clear in the interview with the Catholic Herald, and will continue to do so, that I see no theological justification for any revisiting of this question, and indicated in the interview three times that I have no wish to reopen it, whatever technical possibilities might theoretically exist.

"My convictions mean that I feel nothing less than full support for the decision the Church of England made in 1992, and appreciation of the priesthood exercised," he said.

'Supportive'

The Very Reverend June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, who became the second female dean in the UK in 2004, said the Archbishop had always supported her ministry and was surprised anyone would query his commitment to women priests.

In a statement she said: "I have known and worked with the Archbishop of Canterbury for more than a decade and he has been unerringly supportive of my ministry and the ministry of other women.

"I was thus surprised that there could have been any misunderstanding about his commitment to women priests.

"In my experience Archbishop Rowan has been unequivocal about the profound benefits that have been brought to the Church of England by the ministry of women."

Views 'tested'

Dr Williams was also asked in the interview with the Catholic Herald if divisions within the Church had affected his views on the ordination of women.

"It has tested it, it really has, and there have been moments when I have felt that," he said.

"But I think perhaps what one doesn't realise is how very, very normal this has come to feel for the vast majority of Anglicans and it hasn't undermined what the people feel about the ministry of the sacraments."

Dr Williams' remarks will also be viewed against the current debate within the worldwide Anglican Church, over the introduction of female bishops.


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