Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 14:47 UK

Anglican bishop debate rumbles on

By Mark Simpson
BBC News, York

Jean Mayland holds a banner before the debate on bishops
The Synod vote followed six hours of debate, which saw one bishop in tears

Anglicans angry over the vote in favour of women bishops are talking rather than walking.

The threat of a walk-out remains but a sudden exodus by hundreds of traditionalists has yet to materialise.

On the margins of the General Synod in York, members huddled over lukewarm cups of tea and crumbly croissants to discuss the way forward.

"This debate is a bit like a Wimbledon final - two sides slugging it out against each other, long into the night, with neither prepared to give any ground," said one exasperated liberal.

"The difference is that at Wimbledon, the competitors are prepared to accept, gracefully, the final result." Ouch.

'Hurt and pain'

The issue has caused a great deal of hurt and pain, on both sides - liberals (pro-women bishops) and traditionalists (anti) alike.

"It feels like a bereavement," said Canon David Houlding, a vicar in north London, and one of the loudest voices against female bishops.

"The Church of England will never be quite the same again."

So will he and others now leave?

"We don't know. We're still struggling to find a way forward."

While he believes 500 years of history has been turned on its head, others believe the cobwebs have finally been blown off one of the Church's most discriminatory laws.

One female priest, the Reverend Miranda Threlfall-Holmes from Durham, couldn't disguise her relief.

"It's important for the whole country because bishops sit in the House of Lords," she pointed out.

"And there's currently a group of people within the legislation of this country which is closed at the minute to women, which is wrong."

Debate continues

She also believes the Synod vote will help female priests feel fully valued within the wider church.

"It says a great deal about what the Church of England thinks about our ministry and about whether women are called by God in the same way that men are."

As the General Synod in York drew to a close, there was no sign of the debate ending.

Indeed it will probably continue for some time as the first consecration of a woman bishop is unlikely to occur before 2014.

That means six more Wimbledon finals could take place before this contest between liberals and traditionalists in the Church of England is finally over.

So is there still a chance that the move towards women bishops can be stopped?

The traditionalists will continue to rally, but the score at the moment is "advantage liberals".




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