New Bishop of London opposes women priests

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The next bishop of London is to be the Rt Rev Richard Chartres, a leading defender of the Book of Common Prayer who does not ordain women priests.

The formal announcement of Bishop Chartres's appointment will be made today. His appointment will fill the vacancy created by the move of Bishop David Hope from London to York and means that two of the top three posts in the Church of England will now be occupied by opponents of women priests.

However, supporters and opponents of women priests praised the bishop's fair mindedness and sophistication.

Christina Rees, a spokeswoman for the Movement for the Ordination of Women, said: "Women priests are going to react with disappointment. They will ask themselves `How many more opponents must be given top jobs before the church can start appointing bishops from among their supporters?' But Richard Chartres is young, full of energy and well-liked. He has a record of listening to women and being fair."

Fr Donald Lee, an Anglo-Catholic who is leaving the Church of England in protest against the ordination of women, said: "He is immensely urbane and sophisticated without being slick. He is a man of great cultural refinement. He would do tremendously well for London. I suspect that he is a genuine agnostic about the ordination of women, which of course makes his position extremely invidious. He is doing the best he can."

Bishop Chartres, 48, was chaplain to Lord Runcie, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, for nine years: five when he was bishop of St Albans and four in Lambeth Palace.

The bishop is credited with being among Lord Runcie's most effective speech-writers. His scholarly urbanity certainly recalls his old patron's manner. His wife, Caroline, is the diarist on the Church Times.

The diocese of London, covering the city north of the Thames, is considered to be a snake pit. It has more women priests than any other diocese in England and more of their opponents. Bishop Chartres is currently one of the four area bishops in London: only one of these, the Bishop of Willesden, will ordain women; another, the bishop of Fulham, has been appointed to minister to those priests who cannot accept any contact with a bishop prepared to compromise on the issue.

The diocese is also the capital of the church's homosexual priesthood; around 200 of its 900 priests are reportedly gay.