Women's opponents to have own bishops

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AT LEAST two opponents of women priests are planning to consecrate their own bishops illegally.

Forward in Faith, the umbrella group for opponents of women's ordination, yesterday released a poll of delegates to its recent conference which showed that 96 per cent of those involved were prepared to obtain bishops in this way.

The organisation is not itself officially in favour of such a move, which would represent a formal schism with the rest of the Church of England, as well as being illegal. Bishops can only be legally consecrated in this country with the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury or York. But one high- ranking member of Forward in Faith estimated that the step would be taken within two years.

These speculations are a result of the increasing desperation of Forward in Faith members who cannot or will not become Roman Catholics. 'We have always wanted a parallel church,' the Rev John Broadhurst, chairman of the organisation, said. Yet the rest of the Church of England has refused to grant them the autonomy and the share of the assets that they want.

Particular anger has been roused in the organisation by the refusal of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, to consecrate two 'flying bishops' to minister to the irreconcilable opponents of women priests.

Instead, he consecrated only one, and that after he had ordained some women priests. In the view of many opponents, this ensured that the new bishop was tainted by contact with hands that had ordained a woman. In contrast, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, who yesterday announced his resignation, ordained his 'provincial episcopal visitor', as the flying bishops are officially known, before he had ordained any women.

But in the long run, the position of those Anglican priests who cannot accept women colleagues and will not become Roman Catholics looks increasingly untenable. They are faced with the prospect of women bishops within 10 to 15 years.