Cleric may quit over women bishops

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THE ARCHBISHOP of York, Dr David Hope, will resign if the Church of England decides to consecrate women bishops.

Dr Hope, the second most senior figure in the Church of England's hierarchy, has told friends that he could never take part in the consecration of women, adding: "I just couldn't stay in those circumstances."

Resignation would be the only "logical conclusion" if the church agreed to promote women priests, he has reportedly said. He is understood to be particularly concerned about the mounting pressure to abolish safeguards protecting opponents of women priests.

At present, the 1993 Act of Synod allows traditionalists who oppose women priests to be administered to by so-called "flying bishops". However, it is hard to see how this compromise could be maintained once women bishops get the go-ahead from the General Synod.

Many pro-women campaigners feel that, five years after the ordination of the first women priests, the time has come seriously to consider the question of women bishops, and a private member's motion to that effect is likely to be debated at the General Synod this year.

Dr Hope's uncompromising stance will provide a boost to the traditionalists, led by the Rev Geoffrey Kirk, of Forward in Faith, who intends to create a "Third Province" breakaway church if women bishops become a reality. Just as 440 priests left the Church of England over women priests, more are expected to depart in protest at women bishops.

Christina Rees, the chairwoman of Watch (Women and the Church), said: "It is very sad that the Archbishop of York feels he could not accommodate this development. I am convinced that God has shown the church that this is the direction to take."

Around 2,000 women have been ordained as priests, and female bishops exist in the Anglican Church abroad.