Friday, 30 May 2008

CEN: MPs give a major boost to women bishops campaign

FRIDAY, MAY 30 2008 – Church of England Newspaper

MPs give a major boost to women bishops campaign
By Matt Cresswell

THE APPOINTMENT of women bishops go ahead according to key members of parliament’s Ecclesiastical Committee. Speaking to The Church of England Newspaper members said that ‘most’ of the committee were in favour. One member said it had taken an ‘indecent’ amount of time for women to be included as bishops.

Their comments follow last week’s meeting of the House of Bishops where the majority of bishops agreed to proceed with women bishops under the simplest statutory arrangements, it has been revealed. This July’s Synod will discuss the House of Bishop’s conclusion and also whether details in the legislation should be confirmed now or at a later time.

Speaking to the CEN the Conservative MP Peter Bottomley, who sits on the Ecclesiastical Committee, said he welcomed the bishops’ verdict.

“Essentially everyone knew that when you had the ordination of women as priests that this would lead to the consecration of women bishops after a decent length of pause.”

He added: “Some would say it has now been an indecent length of pause.”

As to whether the committee would endorse legislation for women bishops, Mr Bottomley said: “My guess is, on balance, we will. Some with enthusiasm and some without.”

Regarding those who would flee the Church of England as a result, he said: “If they do, it’s happened before. I hope people realise that they are changing denomination rather than religion.”

He continued: “Surely people should be considered on merit. Sex is not merit. Sex is not a qualification or a disqualification.”

The Liberal Democrat MP SteveWebb, who also sits on the committee, said: “I don’t speak for the whole committee because it’s a very diverse bunch but I would be very much on the ‘get on with it’ end of the scale.”

He added: “I think I’m a bit nervous about setting up parallel structures.”

But some members of the Church of England feel let down by the Ecclesiastical Committee which in 1992 endorsed legislation that insisted on provisions for those opposed to women priests. Father Geoffrey Kirk of the Anglo-Catholic movement Forward in Faith said that if provisions are not provided then disillusioned members of the Church of England could take legal action. “It would not be unreasonable for a clergyman ordained on 1993, when the assurances were effective, to do this,” he said.

“It would be shameful for the House of Bishops which promulgated the Manchester Statement to go back on those promises.”

He added “It would be fraudulent.”

Margaret Brown, who represents the Third Province Movement said: “The Ecclesiastical Committee of parliament only agreed to women in the priesthood if proper provision was made to look after those opposed to it.”

The consequences of having no provision would be “very serious” she said and added that “there is even the possibility of cutting off the money supply” and that this could even “be the break-up of the Church of England.”

However, Christina Rees, director of the pro-women group WATCH, said she was ‘delighted’ with the result. “I am delighted the bishops want to go ahead along the lines of the first approach which is the simplest statuary arrangement.”
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