Welsh plan for women priests

Tony Heath
Saturday 15 April 1995 23:02
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A FRESH attempt to enable women to be ordained as priests of the Church In Wales will be launched on Wednesday when the church's governing body meets at Lampeter, Dyfed.

The move comes a year after a similar proposal was voted down, isolating Wales from the rest of Britain's Anglicans.

The Bill being tabled this week seeks to blunt opposition by including a conscience clause enabling clergy and parishes objecting to women priests to escape sanctions.

The Bishop of St David's, the Right Rev Ivor Rees, a prime mover for change, is confident. "I've recently appointed two women as clerics-in- charge in rural Cardiganshire. One looks after four churches, the other two. I am heartened by the success of such appointments - women can exercise a very valuable ministry," he said yesterday.

Any decision requires a two-thirds majority by secret ballot in all three of the Church In Wales's houses - the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. Twelve months ago the laity voted 148 to 51 in favour, and six of the seven bishops backed admission of women to the priesthood. But clergy voted 75-47 against, killing off the measure.

The odd man out among the bishops, the Right Rev Roy Davies, Bishop of Llandaff, has now switched sides.

Intense lobbying is expected before the final reading of the Bill next year. Joan Buckingham, who chairs Credo Cymru, a group of traditionalists, said she was surprised that the issue was being raised only a year after the "No" vote. "We re-affirm our opposition to the ordination of women to the priesthood."

Revival of the measure is likely to dissuade some women deacons - there are 68 in Wales - from moving to England.

Margaret Cooling has not waited. This month she and her husband, the Rev Derrick Cooling, a priest at St David's in Newport, moved to All Saints at Purleigh, Essex. Mrs Cooling, 57, has waited decades to become a priest. She said: "In June I will be ordained. The atmosphere here is one of joy and devotion."

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