Church of England clears way for female bishops

The Church of England has cleared the last obstacle to appointing women as bishops . By a show of hands it approved overwhelmingly the legislation that brings to an end 20 years of wrangling.

The first women could be appointed before Christmas and arrangements are in place to fast-track anyone eligible into the House of Lords. By Easter, at the latest, there should be a female bishop sitting in the House of Lords.

“The work of a whole lifetime for so many, many people has just come to fruition,” tweeted Canon Rosie Harper .

In the end, the opposition simply crumbled away. The conservative evangelicals retreated in the face of public shock and outrage, and on the basis of a half-promise that one of them would be made a bishop to make up for the women whose authority they will not acknowledge.

The Catholics, after decades of increasingly desperate intrigue, found a sort of home within the Roman Catholic Church, but there were hardly any of them. After five years, 300 priests have signed up, whose total congregations amounted to 1 500.

Those numbers are startling. After decades of claiming that liberalism had eviscerated the Church of England and led to shrinking congregations, it turns out that these conservatives had congregations with an average size of five.

But no sooner had the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, signed the measure that will make female bishops into law than he launched into a survey of relations within the worldwide Anglican communion. He warned the synod that schism was an imminent danger. “Without prayer and repentance it is hard to see how we can avoid some serious fractures,” he said.

He spoke at length about the problems facing Anglicans around the world: jihadi violence in the Middle East; Ebola, which he described as “a new Black Death” in west Africa; famine in Sudan; and war in Congo. He said: “There are no strategies and no plans beyond prayer and obedience” that might hold the global Anglican communion together. – By Andrew Brown

Image – Members of the Church of England’s Synod raise their hands as they formalise the vote on the consecration of women bishops in central London on November 17, 2014. (AFP)