Church rebels seek to fund split over women priests

OPPONENTS of women priests are trying to organise financial UDI from the Church of England while they wait to hear what terms will be offered them either by the House of Bishops and the Roman Catholic church.

Around 100 members of the General Synod left its deliberations yesterday to attend a meeting organised by 'Forward in Faith' a group which cotains almost all the opponents of women priests.

The group is threatening to withdraw parish quotas from bishops who disagree with them. In a paper sent to diocesan representatives, it suggests that they investigate the possibility of transferring parish assets to a trust fund without informing the diocese.

'We are not suggesting for the time being that payments be withheld' say the instruction to diocesan organisers. It suggests instead holding monthly payments in a deposit-bearing account and creaming off the interest before sending the capital to the diocese at year-end, or funnelling the payments through Forward in Faith itself.

The group is urging parishes to declare that they will not recognise the orders of any women ordained as priests, and preparing to organise a lobbying campaign against MPs to ensure larger financial compensation for those priests who leave the Chruch of England in protest against women.

It is still unclear, even to members Forward in Faith themselves, whether this is to collect a dowry to bring to Rome with them, or to fortify a parallel church within the church of England. Fr John Broadhurst, the chairman of Forward in Faith, told the meeting yesterday that 'There must be some form of parallel jurisdiction as the only means to enable those opposed to this new ministry to continue to operate in some sense 'within the church of England'.

'Our need is for real bishops who do not ordain women as priests or recognise them. We need the liberty to freely associate with them and the means to train priests in the future so that we are not simply put into an ecclesiastic geriatric home.'

Fr Broadhurst was supported by the Rev Tony Higton, and evangelical whose earlier campaign against homosexual priests caused many Anglo-Catholics much pain. But on this occasion he backed their financial threats. 'Those of us who are not givers cannot continue to subsidise that which is contrary to scripture.' He said: 'I think we could see the collapse of the present system and this could be seen as redemptive judgement on the part of the Lord himself.'

Told of these demands and financial plans, two diocesan bishops in favour of women's ordination replied that no compromise was possible, and the disaffected would have to go.