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1987: Synod says 'yes' to women priests

VIDEO : Synod debates the ordination of women priests

The Church of England's General Synod has voted by a huge majority to clear the way for the ordination of women priests.

The Church of England has been debating the issue for 10 years and the final go-ahead is still some years away.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, supported the yes vote but was careful to point out the Church would study an inquiry to be carried out by a committee of bishops before it reached a final decision.

He also said those who warned the issue would cause a split the Church were suffering from "premature panic".

The Bishop of London, Dr Graham Leonard, who is against the move retracted earlier threats to leave or divide the Church.


" Am I called to walk tall in society and to walk small in the Church?"

Sister Carol, Nun

But talk of a split in the Church dominated the debate today in the Synod.

The Government Junior Agriculture Minister John Gummer, a lay member, said: "It would no longer be the church into which I was born, which I love and in which I pray to die.

"That is not a threat, it's a statement."

Sister Carol, a nun from Worcestershire, told those present women had a right to become priests.

She said: "Am I called to walk tall in society and to walk small in the Church?"

A spokesperson for the Movement for the Ordination of Women said members would be "absolutely delighted" by the vote.

The synod is divided into three houses - bishops, clergy and laymen. Overall 317 (68%) voted for and 145 against.

Only the House of Clergy had less than the significant two-thirds majority. The final vote will require a two-thirds majority in all three houses.

In Context
The synod voted in favour again in 1992 and the first woman priest was ordained in Bristol on 12 March 1994.

The issue threatened to hamper efforts to forge closer links with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches and caused prominent Conservative politicians Ann Widdecombe and John Gummer to defect to the Catholic Church.

By April 1998 there were more than 1,700 women priests.

But a survey carried out by the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union in six out of 44 dioceses found that many complained of bullying and even sexual harassment from male colleagues.

The Church of England set up a working party in 2000 to consider the licensing of women bishops. The general synod will vote on the issue in summer 2005.

Anglican churches in the USA have had women bishops since 1989.


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