Opponents of women's ordination 'declare war'

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The Independent Online
OPPONENTS of women priests in the Church of England yesterday launched a manifesto described by one of their leaders as 'a declaration of war' on the rest of the church.

Forward in Faith, a group representing about 4,000 clergy, has produced a code of practice which clearly points the way out of the Church of England for irreconcilable opponents of women priests.

They are to refuse communion at the hands of any diocesan bishop who ordains women or allows them to take any post in his diocese, or any bishops in communion with him. This means in practice all the Anglican bishops in England, since the House of Bishops, which is meeting in Manchester this week, has agreed that there will be no dioceses without women priests.

However, sources said yesterday that the chosen candidates would not accept this code of practice. The breach of communion applies to all women priests as well; but also to all male priests who accept the ministry of women.

Finally, the code says a priest opposed to women's ordination 'would find it impossible to celebrate the Eucharist in any parish where a female priest was a regular and accepted minister.

'He should not, as a matter of principle, administer the Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament in any hospital, hospice or other institution where a woman was the incumbent, chaplain, or assistant minister. Or commend to the care of a woman priest . . . anyone close to death.'

Caroline Davies, of the Movement for the Ordination of Women, said: 'How unchristian of them. I think it extraordinary that they should behave like that and call themselves priests in the church of God.'

The code is the latest step in attempts to detach a sizeable body of Anglican clergy and lead them to Rome. It seems to smash several previous attempts at compromise.

It makes especially difficult the role of the 'flying bishops' who were meant to keep opponents within the Church of England, however loosely. Sources said the House of Bishops had approved, though not yet announced, the three candidates for the post - and that none would accept the code.