Supporters of women's ordination were jubilant at the news, which they took to mean the end of any prospect of no-go areas for women priests within the Church of England. 'Most of the head-banging Anglo-Catholics will just have to live with it,' one of Dr Hope's priests said.
Dr Hope, himself an opponent of women priests, presides over the diocese which has the highest proportion of implacable opponents of women's ordination in England, but also the highest number of women deacons of any diocese.
The legislation permitting women to be ordained, which the Church of England's General Synod passed last November, also allowed diocesan bishops to declare thay would have no women in their dioceses. It is this power which Dr Hope has now publicly declined to use. Four of his five assistant bishops are known to be opposed to ordaining women, three of them implacably, but the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Rev Graham Dow, has said he will ordain them.
Under the terms of the plan announced in Dr Hope's letter, to which all his diocesan staff have agreed, a parish opposed to women priests which finds itself in an area administered by a bishop who has ordained or employed them, may transfer its allegiance to the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Rev John Klyberg.
In a pastoral letter sent to all his clergy Dr Hope explains: 'If a parish joins the Fulham jurisdiction, then the Bishop of Fulham will be entitled to visit and enter such parishes, and be responsible for confirmations, selection of candidates for ordination, presentation, licensings, and permissions to officiate.'
These wide-ranging powers may prove necessary because some of the London clergy have let it be known that they will break off all relations with a bishop who ordains women; and the Bishop of Willesden, though he may license or ordain women priests, does so technically on behalf of the Bishop of London himself, who would then become 'tainted' in the eyes of extreme Anglo-Catholics.
The plan also makes provision for the Archbishop of Canterbury to send in a bishop from outside the diocese to ordain women working in areas whose bishops refuse to have anything to do with them. Women who wish to become priests will be able to appeal.