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Church of England Formally Adopts Legislation for Female Bishops

After formally adopting the legislation, the Church of England could see its first female bishops being ordained in 2015. Picture courtesy of The Telegraph.

The Church of England has formally adopted the legislation for ordaining female Bishops after initially voting to back the plans in July.

The Church’s first female bishops could then be ordained next year, when new bishops in Southwell and Nottingham, Gloucester, and Oxford, as well as St Edmundsbury and Ipswich dioceses will be appointed. Support for appointing a woman as the new bishop in Oxford has already been expressed.

A vote to back the change in Canon was held previously in 2012, but that effort was rejected by just six votes in the House of Laity. This year however, all of the three Houses of the general synod were behind the proposal.

The Church of England has ordained women as priests since 1994, and the progress towards allowing women to hold higher positions within the Church began already in 2005, when it was approved by the general synod to remove the legal obstacles for ordaining women as bishops. After which it took nine years to finalise that motion.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby was pleased with the legislation now formally approved and stated that women were being trained as potential bishops. But ordaining female bishops will not be universally accepted, as the change has again exposed the discord between traditionalists, who see it incompatible with their beliefs, and the more liberal wing of the Church.

Those who have campaigned for the issue have seen the change as a possibility for increasing female involvement in the Church. Currently, out of the 7,798 full-time priests in the Church of England 1,781 are women.

The Church has been pondering the use of positive discrimination in appointing female bishops. In addition, women bishops could be allowed to jump the queue to the 26 seats occupied by the Church of England in the House of Lords, which are otherwise allocated according to the length of service.

The Church of Ireland, a separate branch of the Anglican Communion, ordained its first female bishop in September last year, after having allowed the ordination of women as bishops since 1990. Also, women have been allowed to become bishops in Scotland since 2003 and in Wales since 2013, although none have yet been ordained.

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