9 January 2006 — According to a report leaked to the newspaper, the first woman could be consecrated as soon as 2012.
The document setting out how the Church should proceed is expected to be approved by bishops this week at a meeting in Leeds.
The report will then go to next month’s meeting of the General Synod for debate.
The proposals include the grounding of the three “flying bishops” consecrated to care for opponents of women priests. In their place will rise a new hybrid, the PRB, shorthand for “provincial regional bishop”.
However, one senior traditionalist told The Times: “This report is worse than a fudge, it is a bodge stuffed full of incomprehensible jargon.”
His concerns are shared by some rebel bishops who will use the Leeds meeting to attempt to delay the whole process by a further five or ten years. They fear that the controversy over gays has left the Church so fragile that to add women bishops to its burden could finish it off.
Another newspaper reported last year that the Archbishop of Canterbury might decline to consecrate women if the Church decides to allow them to become bishops.
The report, to be published officially next week, gives warning of “significant implications” following from the consecration of women. But in a “fractious and often brutal world”, the ordination of women as bishops would allow the Church to illustrate its taking part in the “sacrificial graciousness of God’s love,” it says.
The proposals allow for a woman to be appointed as both Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of York. But a woman would only be appointed to Canterbury at a time when she would not cause further disunity within the wider Anglican Communion. Where a diocese or province would not accept a woman Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishops of London or Winchester would undertake her archiepiscopal functions.
The new regional bishops will operate under a system called Transferred Episcopal Arrangements by which the episcopal functions of a woman diocesan bishop will be transferred directly to a PRB where parishes chose to opt out of her care. They will carry out ordinations, confirmations and other duties.
Traditionalists are also planning an emergency rally in London at the end of the month. More than 2,000 clergy, laity and bishops are expected at Westminster Central Hall to fight the plans. They contest the authenticity of sacraments celebrated by women bishops and priests but also, crucially, by any male priests ordained by a woman bishop. However, there is unlikely to be a further large exodus from the Church. Most who could not accept women’s ordination left after the first women were ordained in 1994. Women now account for 16 per cent of full-time clergy.
The traditionalists’ own preferred solution, for a “third province” with their own bishop appointed as primate, has minimal support among the bishops because it would create “major schism”, the report says.
At present, 315 parishes have opted for the care of the flying bishops. More than 1,000, of the total of 13,000 parishes, have passed resolutions banning the appointment of a woman as their vicar.
© 2006 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk