Ordained wife drives Anglican vicar to Rome

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The Independent Online
MANY ARE called, but few are chosen. And if one of those chosen for priesthood is the wife of a vicar vehemently opposed to the ordination of women, the result, perhaps inevitably, is a theological and marital problem.

The Rev Fred Bonham has reacted to the issue of women priests by leaving the Church of England for conversion to Catholicism. He says this is the only way he can be true to his conscience after the decision by the General Synod to admit women to the clergy.

The couple's only child, Louise, 19, is also said to be opposed to women priests in principle, but backs her mother, Valerie. "Because she is my mum and I would support anything she did," she said. Mrs Bonham, 51, was once herself against the ordination of females. But she is now a deacon at her husband's church, St Mary's, at Speen, near Newbury, in Berkshire, and is expected to become curate in another parish later this year.

Mr Bonham said he would not stand in the way of his wife's ambition but he has decided to take early retirement. He said: "The fact is Jesus did not choose any women as his disciples. He worked with women, he loved women. But he did not choose them as his first disciples and it is for this reason that the ministers of the church have always been men." Mr Bonham added: "I, or anybody else, have no right to prevent Valerie or any other Anglican women from doing the same."

Harry Godwin, verger of St Mary's, said the Parochial Church Council has decided it was not in favour of women priests in the past. Mr Bonham's replacement will be a male priest.

The Rev David Cook, the rural dean of Newbury said: "I respect [Mr Bonham's] decision and I think the Church of England is big enough to hold all views."