Anglicans will have women bishops
23 November 2012, 08:04
Abuja - The incoming spiritual head of the world's Anglicans Justin Welby on Thursday said that the Church of England will eventually include women bishops despite a vote this week rejecting such a move.
"It's clear that women are going to be bishops in the Church of England," Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, told journalists after an event in the Nigerian capital Abuja, adding later: "Absolutely no question on that."
Tuesday's vote followed years of wrangling between traditionalists and liberals that exposed bitter divisions in the 85-million strong worldwide Anglican communion, as well as in its mother church.
The current archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has accused elements inside England's state church of being "wilfully blind" to the trends of wider society after its governing body, the General Synod, failed to pass the legislation by a razor-thin margin.
The proposals needed a two-thirds majority in each house of the 470-member General Synod - composed of bishops, clergy and ordinary lay churchgoers - but fell short by just six voters among the laity.
The vote was one final setback for Williams, a liberal, wordy theologian, who steps down in December after 10 years of battles to keep the Church's factions united.
The result was also a blow to the authority of his more evangelical successor Welby, the bishop of Durham.
The former oil company executive, who was in Abuja along with former British prime minister Tony Blair as part of an initiative to improve Muslim-Christian relations, was named on 9 November and will be enthroned on 21 March.
The Church of England, which separated from the Roman Catholic Church in 1534, claims that more than 40% of people in England regard themselves as members.
The wider Anglican communion's first woman bishop was appointed in the United States in 1989 and there are now 37 worldwide.
The proposals would have allowed a woman bishop to delegate duties to a stand-in male bishop if a parish rejected her authority.
But some supporters of women bishops voted against the proposal as they felt this plan was a messy compromise.
The Church of England will not formally be able to raise the plans again until 2015 when a new General Synod comes in.
However, there is a complex, caveat-laden back route by which the church's top ranks could revive the initiative in July next year or even as early as February.
The move would be its biggest change since allowing female priests 20 years ago. Around a third of the clergy in the Church of England are women.