Woman priest at St Paul's faces legal challenge

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Reverend Lucy Winkett (right), the woman priest whose appointment at St Paul's Cathedral sparked a row in the Church of England, is to be challenged in the High Court, it emerged yesterday.

Anglo-Catholic priest Father Paul Williamson is to seek a judicial review of Rev Winkett's appointment as a minor canon, which he blames on a "loony liberal" leadership which is tearing the Church apart.

Miss Winkett, 29, yesterday said she would not be backing down in the face of threats of court action, but refused to discuss her feelings about the animosity her selection has aroused.

Her appointment in February provoked a split in the ranks of the St Paul's chapter, with the cathedral's Chancellor, Canon John Halliburton, announcing that he did not recognise her as a priest and would not attend any service where she was officiating.

Fr Williamson, vicar of St George's, Hanworth, Middlesex, told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme that Miss Winkett's appointment was a breach of the historic statutes of the cathedral.

"I have nothing against women - I think they're wonderful. The appointment of a woman as canon at St Paul's is simply not possible because the statutes state quite clearly 'clergyman' and 'he' throughout, from the time of Richard II.

Fr Williamson has been a thorn in the side of the Church's leadership since the General Synod's 1993 decision to ordinate women, disrupting ordination services and taking the Archbishop of Canterbury to court for treason and heresy. In February he defied an order from the Archbishopto drop the name of Diana, Princess of Wales, from the State Prayer.