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Editorial: Just what the Church needs... women

The new Archbishop of Canterbury is not even in the job yet. But the Rt Rev Justin Welby faces his first test tomorrow nonetheless, with the General Synod vote on the controversial issue of women bishops. Although Bishop Welby (who remains, until March, Bishop of Durham) has made a strong case in favour, using his inaugural press conference to call for a Yes vote, the outcome is, thus far, too close to call.

The central issue is, of course, one of equality. As the letter from 1,000-plus clergy and senior laity published in The Independent today makes clear, it is time for the Church to show it "no longer believes women to be inferior to men". But there is also, as Bishop Welby has spotted, a question of church unity here. The Archbishop-elect is to be commended for his alacrity in coming forward on so tricky an issue. But with fights over homosexuality to come, this week's vote is only the beginning.