Archdeacon ousted in a very religious coup

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The Independent Online

Religious Affairs Correspondent

The Venerable George Austin, the best-known opponent of women priests in the Church of England, is the victim of a coup mounted against him by two of his fellow archdeacons.

Archdeacon Austin sits in the General Synod, the Church's "parliament'', as representative of the three archdeacons of the diocese of York, but is in danger of being forced out because his colleagues, the Ven Christopher Hawthorn, Arch-deacon of Cleveland, and the Ven Hugh Buckingham, Arch- deacon of the East Riding, have refused to endorse his appointment.

To make matters worse they did not tell Archdeacon Austin of their decision until after the deadline had passed for him to have a second chance of remaining on the Synod - by standing as a candidate for election by all his fellow clergy.

As one of the longest-serving and most powerful politicians on the Synod, he is also a member of the Crown Appointments Commission, the committee that chooses diocesan bishops and appoints to the Church Commissioners. He will be forced to vacate these positions if he is not appointed as representative of the three archdeacons of the diocese of York.

"They ambushed him in a way from which he has no defence," said Fr John Broadhurst, chairman of Forward in Faith, the group that co-ordinates opposition to women priests in the Church of England. "They behaved in a way you wouldn't behave to your worst enemies. It is the sort of thing you would expect in Fleet Street but not in the church of Jesus Christ. The whole thing is disgusting."

Archdeacon Austin caused a national storm by suggesting that the Prince of Wales was unfit to be king because of his admitted adultery.