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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 April, 2003, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Row grows over women priests
women priests
Cornwall has 28 women priests
A west Cornwall church is the fifth in the county to clash with Anglican leaders over the ordination of women priests.

The parochial church council (PCC) has voted to support St Just-in-Penwith vicar, the Reverend Stephen Leach's stand against ordination.

Four churches in Cornwall, whose PCCs are also opposed to women priests, have already made similar moves

St Just is now in the pastoral care of Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Right Reverend Andrew Burnham, based 300 miles away in Abingdon.

So called "flying bishops" like Bishop Burnham were introduced in 1992 to care for disaffected parishes in the wake of women being ordained as priests.

He looks after 100 such parishes, including the five in Cornwall, as well as about 30 in Devon.

Parishioners 'neglected'

But some St Just parishioners believe the congregation has been neglected.

Caroline Windsor, a former member of the PCC in St Just, and a number of other parishioners, have written to Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Bill Ind.

She said: "I think a number of people feel that they have not been consulted and Mr Leach has a moral obligation to consult them.

It is quite clear that people do not feel that they have been properly consulted
Jeremy Dowling, Church of England

"He may be abiding by his legal obligations, but morally he should have consulted the wider parish and congregation about this issue."

A number of elderly members of the congregation had left because they were unhappy.

Father Leach said in a statement: "The plans to vote against women priests being ordained were on the church notice board for seven weeks and nobody commented.

"St Just church is still part of the diocese of Truro, confirmations will be carried out by the Bishop of Ebbsfleet.

"The PCC does not agree with the ordination of women priests or with women bishops."

Church of England spokesman Jeremy Dowling said the matter should be seen in context - the number of protesting parishes was small in relation to the diocese's total of 224 parishes.

But he said Mr Leach could have signalled his opposition in the parish magazine.

He said: "In view of the amount of correspondence that the bishop has received, it is quite clear that people do not feel that they have been properly consulted."

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