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Church of England postpones historic vote on female bishops

July 12, 2012

LONDON

Veteran campaigners in the Church of England claimed an important step forward following a vote on July 9 by the General Synod, the Church’s governing body, to postpone draft legislation that would have allowed women to become bishops ― though under circumstances the majority of Anglicans believe would have been both discriminatory and humiliating.

On a day that could have marked the end of decades of struggle and division in the church about full rights for females, the Synod decided to delay a final vote until a meeting in London this November.

Had it passed, the legislation would have created a two-tier system in which not only female bishops but men who ordained women or who had themselves been ordained by women, would be fall under a separate category.

The House of Bishops had introduced an amendment, known as Clause 5(1)c, calling for a rule in which “the exercise of ministry by those [alternative] bishops and priests will be consistent with the theological convictions” of parishes, meaning a church that objected to the authority of a woman could request a male replacement.

The House of Bishops will now meet in September to take another look at its proposal, after having been asked to re-consider it.

Senior Anglican campaigners condemned Clause 5(1)c, saying it would have legitimized discriminatory laws in the United Kingdom.

“It’s a victory for the Church of England, which has issued a resounding ‘No’ to discrimination,” said Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council. “Had this measure been approved it would have had the effect of discriminating against people who believe men and women are equal.”

The decision to delay further debate gives the bishops about four months to come up with a fresh plan to allow women to hold senior jobs in the Church of England, while satisfying Anglo Catholic traditionalists who don't accept the authority of women.

Amid the debate, a woman was appointed to head one of England’s top two cathedrals. The appointment by the Crown of the Very Rev. Vivienne Faull as dean of York makes her the most senior female in the Church of England. Faull succeeds Keith Jones, who retired in April. She is expected to take up her post in September.

There are only three other female deans in England.

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