Fierce critic of women priests made bishop deckys

Andrew Brown
Monday 13 May 1996 23:02

One of the leading opponents of women priests in the Church of England is to be made a bishop. The appointment of the Rev John Broadhurst as Bishop of Fulham will be officially announced today, when three vacancies in the diocese of London are filled.

Fr Broadhurst is the chairman of Forward in Faith, the main group opposed to women priests, and has been largely responsible for the group's development as a virtual church within the church, with its own structures in every diocese.

He has been appointed by the Bishop of London, Right Rev Richard Chartres, who has also appointed as Bishop of Stepney Canon John Sentamu, a former judge of the Ugandan High Court who fled from Idi Amin and retrained as a priest when he came to England.

Dr Sentamu will become the third black bishop in the Church of England, joining the Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali and the Bishop of Croydon, the Right Rev Wilfred Woods.

Dr Sentamu is a strong supporter of women priests who is, however, liked and trusted by traditionalists. He is an energetic evangelical who talks with a speed and passion that can leave his hearers bemused.

He once told the General Synod that the Church of England has "the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of a juggernaut". As Bishop of Stepney, he will be well-placed for the further promotion which almost everyone believes he deserves. His two immediate predecessors have become bishops of Bath and Wells and of London.

The third new suffragan bishop to be announced is the Ven Michael Colclough, now personal assistant to the Bishop of London, who will become Bishop of Kensington.

Archdeacon Colclough is an "affirming Catholic", who is in favour of women priests and of Catholic symbolism and language. This makes him a member of the party loathed above all others by traditionalist Anglo-Catholics, such as Fr Broadhurst. "An affirming Catholic is someone who will do anything with a woman except take her to bed," according to the latest traditionalist joke.

The appointment of Fr Broadhurst suggests that the mass movement of priests opposed to the ordination of women from the Church of England into the Catholic church may have passed its high point.

If he believes he can stay and fight for his views within the Church of England, many others will conclude he is right.

A forceful critic of the hierarchy, greatly liked for his honesty and salty language, Fr Broadhurst was the first synod member to put his name to a petition in favour of women bishops, whose creation is explicitly prevented by the legislation allowing women priests.

Although he does not believe in either, he has said it is hypocrisy and sexism to stop women from promotion if they are to be priests at all.

The three appointments represent a balance between the three main parties in the Church of England in London, which has both the highest number of women priests in the country and the highest number of irreconcilable opponents.

Although Bishop Chartres remains, like his wife, an opponent of women priests, he will be able to point out that his appointments today have given comfort to all sides.

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