THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, told a committee of Parliament yesterday that the Church of England would appoint women bishops, though not in a hurry.
'In the Church of England we rely on experience, and we're all relaxed about this particular matter,' Dr Carey continued, despite the presence of John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, who has threatened to leave the Church over the issue.
Dr Carey was giving evidence to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, which must approve the legislation passed by the Church of England's General Synod last November to make women priests.
Parliament may accept or reject, but cannot modify, legislation put forward by the synod. Opponents of female priests had hoped that pressure exerted through the parliamentary committee could force the General Synod to entrench the rights of opponents in legislation.
The opposition on the committee was led by Frank Field MP, a suppporter of female priests who believes that the legislation put forward by synod does not adequately protect the position of opponents.
Not all of the synod's delegation were opposed to future legislation. The Ven David Silk, the Archdeacon of Leicester, is widely tipped to be one of the three 'flying bishops' who will be appointed to minister to priests who cannot accept bishops in favour of women. He made six points against the measure.
Dr Carey responded: 'We are in a sea-change which has come about from a very evolving situation.' But the 'flying bishops' would be almost full members of the House of Bishops. 'The only thing they will not be entitled to do is to vote.'
However, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, warned opponents of female priests that their rights could not be guaranteed beyond a certain point when a great majority of the Church believes they are wrong.
The committee will deliver its verdict on the legislation next week.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies