Church puts female bishops on the agenda urged to study idea of female bishops

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The Independent Online
THE MOST senior woman in the Church of England is calling for a two-year study into the implications of allowing women priests to become bishops.

The study would be the first concrete step towards the consecration of women bishops in this country.

The Archdeacon of Tonbridge, the Venerable Judith Rose, believes that, five years after the first women were ordained priests, the issue needs to be put firmly on the agenda.

She is anxious that the debate preceding the vote - expected in the next few years - is an informed one, and believes that a theological study is the best way of achieving this.

Archdeacon Rose, the only female archdeacon in the Church of England, will be urging fellow clergy to join her campaign at next month's General Synod.

She is hopeful that she will gain considerable support, particularly in the light of English bishops' response to the presence of women bishops from other countries at last summer's Lambeth Conference.

"I have heard bishops who were at Lambeth saying that the presence of women almost went unnoticed. It was a fact, not an issue, which I think is healthy," said Archdeacon Rose yesterday. "I want a preliminary study so that when the bishops come to discuss this issue they do so on the basis of information. It's five years since women were ordained priests.

"We've now got the experience in the Church of England of having women priests, who for the most part are doing a very good job."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, is among the strong supporters of women bishops.

However, the presence of women in the House of Bishops would be the final body blow to the traditionalists. Some fear the move would finally force a split in the Church.