Church of England votes in favor of ordaining female bishops

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LONDON — The Church of En­gland voted Mon­day to al­low women to serve as bish­ops, a his­toric de­ci­sion that takes the church a step closer to­ward achiev­ing gen­der equal­ity.

The move ef­fec­tively shat­ters the glass ceil­ing that pre­vented women in En­gland from be­ing pro­moted to top church jobs and was made pos­si­ble af­ter over­haul ad­vo­cates and tra­di­tion­al­ists reached a com­pro­mise that would sat­isfy par­ishes op­posed to fe­male bish­ops.

At their an­nual gath­er­ing at the Univer­sity of York, 351 mem­bers of the Gen­eral Synod, the church’s rul­ing body, voted in fa­vor of the pro­posal while 72 voted against it and 10 ab­stained.

That it has taken a long time for the church, the mother church of the Angli­can Com­mu­nion, to make the move may seem baf­fling to Angli­cans in coun­tries such as the United States, Can­ada and New Zealand, where women al­ready serve as bish­ops. It has been baf­fling for many in En­gland, too, with church­go­ers and even the prime min­is­ter ac­cus­ing the Church of En­gland of be­ing out of step with the times.

But the is­sue of women as bish­ops re­mains highly di­vi­sive in the global Angli­can com­mu­nity. The ma­jor­ity of the world’s 80 mil­lion Angli­cans re­side in Africa, where many ve­he­mently op­pose the idea.

In con­ces­sions to op­po­nents with theo­log­i­cal ob­jec­tions, the pack­age of mea­sures passed Mon­day al­lows a par­ish un­sat­is­fied with a fe­male bishop to ask for a male al­ter­na­tive and take its com­plaints to an in­de­pen­dent body.

“You don’t chuck out fam­ily, or even make it dif­fi­cult for them to be at home,” Arch­bishop of Can­ter­bury Justin Welby said in ref­er­ence to the tra­di­tion­al­ists dur­ing a lively, five-hour de­bate that pre­ceded the vote.

When Arch­bishop Welby was con­firmed to his post last year, he in­her­ited a church still reel­ing from a cri­sis sparked in 2012, af­ter a sim­i­lar pro­posal to or­dain women as bish­ops was re­jected by six votes.

The church ap­proved the or­di­na­tion of fe­male priests 22 years ago, but they were barred from be­com­ing bish­ops be­cause of op­po­si­tion from male clergy. To­day, women make up about one-third of all church clergy but are less likely than their male coun­ter­parts to re­ceive a sti­pend for their work.

Dur­ing the gath­er­ing Mon­day, a mes­sage was read out from Des­mond Tutu, the re­tired arch­bishop of South Africa, where women al­ready serve as bish­ops. “Wow, you are in for a great sur­prise and a treat,” he wrote. “Yip­pee!”

england - Europe - Western Europe - United Kingdom - Desmond Tutu - Justin Welby


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