Page last updated at 04:47 GMT, Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Clergy renew women bishops threat

Kay Goldsworthy (L) and the Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, at the consecration service for her ordination as Australia's first Anglican bishop
Opinion remains divided on the merits of women bishops

Traditionalist clergy have renewed their threat to leave the Church of England if it goes ahead with proposals for the ordination of women bishops.

They wanted the right to opt out of the control by women bishops, joining dioceses headed by male alternatives.

Instead, under a new code of practice, a list of male "complementary" bishops will be drawn up for clergy who refuse to work with female bishops.

The first women Anglican bishops could be consecrated within three years.

The Church's ruling General Synod voted in July to press ahead with the ordination of women bishops.

At the time, some 1,300 clergy opposed to consecrating women as bishops threatened to leave the Church if the safeguards they wanted were not agreed.

They made the threat to leave in a letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but critics said many of the signatories were retired rather than serving clergy.

They wanted the right to opt out of the control of women bishops, or to at least have legally guaranteed access to male bishops.

But the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the new code of practice failed to meet many of their demands.

'Flying bishops'

Under the proposals, the class of "complementary" male bishops would serve traditionalist priests and parishes unwilling to accept oversight from a woman.

But the women bishops would keep the power to authorise visits from these "flying bishops" within their diocese.

The pressure group Women and the Church had previously said that any compromise allowing traditionalists to go to super-bishops instead of female bishops would create second-class clergy and institutionalise division.

The first women priests in the Church of England were ordained in 1994.

The Episcopal Church in Scotland has already cleared the way for ordaining women bishops, as have churches in America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

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