Support for women bishops plan

Legislation to introduce the first women bishops into the Church of England has passed a critical stage, campaigners said.

Women and the Church (Watch) said 28 out of 30 of the Church of England's diocesan assemblies, called diocesan synods, have now voted to endorse legislation introducing women bishops.



The move triggers further debates and a possible final decision on women bishops next year by the Church of England's national assembly, the General Synod.



The group said 24 of the diocesan synods have voted against a request for more provision for Anglicans who cannot accept women as bishops. A further 14 dioceses are still to make a decision.



Sally Barnes, of Watch, which campaigns for greater female representation in the Church, said the results from the diocesan synods showed more support than they had expected for the legislation.



"We knew there was support there from the ordinary person in the Church, but the diocesan synods do not always reflect that. In this case, they have," she said.



The final stages of the legislation would require a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod - of bishops, clergy and laity.



The earliest possible date for a woman bishop to be appointed would be 2014.



The Rev Paul Dawson, spokesman for Reform, a conservative evangelical group within the Church of England, warned that without more provision for opponents, the legislation could eventually fail.



"Our feeling is that if there are no concessions made, if the legislation goes through without any additional provision, then it could well fail," he said.

PA

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