Yesterday the General Synod of the Church of England (CofE) decided put forward a proposal to allow the consecration of women bishops. The decision was not without emotional moments as more than one group threatened to split with the Church.
The traditionalists, including the Anglo-Catholics and the Evangelicals, do not allow women to be ordained. The Anglo-Catholics oppose women bishops because Jesus had no women disciples and the apostolic succession of bishops, passed down by the laying of hands at ordination, should therefore be male. According to Mail Online, the Evangelicals who “have doubts over whether women are capable of assuming leadership roles,” threaten to leave the Church. The evangelical group, Reform, gives quite a bit of money to the CofE and promises to keep its annual contributions of $20 million for training it’s own all-male ministry if women are consecrated.
Both conservative groups tried to compromise with the others by suggesting a resolution that created a group of “super-bishops” made up only of men, but that idea was not included in the final resolution. The two-tiered system was rejected because it would be saying that women would never be qualified to become full bishops.
Although recently in the Episcopal Church, clashes and schisms have swirled around allowing gay men and women to serve as bishops, the battle to stop ordination of women in this country was not that long ago. Throughout the ’70s, women were presented for ordination but refused by bishops. In the 1976 General Convention, however, the canons were changed.
By 2002 there were still some dioceses that refused to ordain woman. The A045 Task Force issued their final report finding that:
Bishop John-David Schofield Diocese of San Joaquin is concerned that women who go through ordination are actually “make-believe priests” whose administration of the sacraments would lead recipients to be “barred from grace.”
In 1988, the Massachusetts Episcopal Diocese consecrated the first female bishop, the Rt. Rev. Barbara C. Harris.
In 2006, the Rt. Rev. Katherine Jefferts Schori, Bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, was elected the 26th Presiding Bishop-elect of the Episcopal Church.
Besides Massachusetts Bishop Barbara Harris, there have been about a dozen women consecrated or in the process of being consecrated in the Episcopal Church.
British news Times Online reports, “The historic decision, to be ratified by the synod in July, paves the way for women bishops to be consecrated as soon as 2012, once all parliamentary hurdles have been cleared.”