Page last updated at 02:00 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Synod to discuss women bishops

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

The governing body of the Church of England is to open a meeting which will consider how to introduce women bishops to the Church.

The decision to ordain women as bishops has already been made in principle, but the Synod will consider specific plans.

This will include a system of male alternatives for parishes which reject oversight from a woman.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster is also to address members on relations between the two churches.

The Synod decided last summer to press ahead with the ordination of women bishops, angering traditionalists by denying them the legal right to opt out of the control of a woman bishop and into special dioceses headed by male alternatives.

However, a draft law to be discussed this week would provide for male "complementary" bishops, to look after parishes unwilling to accept a woman.

Some traditionalist clergy say they will join the Catholic Church if they are not given sufficient exemptions from serving under women bishops.

When he addresses the Synod, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, is expected to express his regret about divisions in the Church of England.

The cardinal is expected to say that Catholics need a united Anglican Church to work for shared Christian aims in Britain.

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