Rift Grows as Church of England Proposes Consecration of Female Bishops

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Traditional Anglicans in the UK may have moved one step closer to entering the Catholic Church upon receiving the news that the Church of England will support the consecration of women as bishops and priests and plans to provide only minor safeguards for parishes that do not support these ordinations.

The Catholic News Agency is reporting that officials of the Church of England released a 142 page document on May 8 that favors women’s ordination, an issue that has caused deep division within the Anglican community.

The news comes less than a month after three Anglican bishops conducted secret meetings at the Vatican to create a plan that will enable traditional priests and bishops in the UK to enter the Catholic Church en masse. The number of those choosing to enter the Church is said to greatly depend on whether or not elders in the Church of England give adequate options to those parishes that do not accept female ordination.  Apparently, Anglican leaders failed to satisfy these requirements.

According to Reuters, safeguards proposed by the church’s revision committee fall way short of requests by traditional parishes to have their own diocese and bishops. Instead, they are only being offered the option of having the right to request  male bishops for blessings and ordinations.

“After much discussion the Committee rejected proposals aimed at fundamentally changing the approach of the legislation for those unable to receive the ministry of female bishops,” wrote Church of England officials in a statement released yesterday.

Three appointed Anglo-Catholic members of the revision committee, the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Baker of Oxford, the Rt. Rev. Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley, and the Rev. Simon Killwick of Manchester, expressed their dismay over the committee’s decision.

“The draft measure as it now stands offers nothing but the prospect of local arrangements whereby a parish may ask — at the discretion of the Diocesan Synod — for the ministry, in certain very circumscribed areas, of a male bishop or priest rather than a female one,” they said in a published statement.

“This discrimination on grounds of gender alone is precisely the opposite of what members of the Catholic Group have long argued for. … This clearly drives a coach and horses through any continuing sense that two views can be held with integrity in the Church of England about the sacramental ministry of women priests and bishops.”

The draft proposals will now go forward for debate at the Church’s General Synod which will take place in July. If passed, the Church of England will hold the same position on female ordination as the Anglican Communion in the United States and New Zealand.

Monday’s statement also clarified that the “earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval in Synod is 2012 with 2014 being the earliest possible date when the first women will be ordained bishops.

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