YORK, ENGLAND (ANS)—In a move which is likely to please some and disappoint others, the Church of England’s ruling General Synod has voted to ordain women as bishops, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reports on its website.
The BBC says the Synod also approved a code of practice aimed at reassuring opponents of the idea. However, the code falls short of safeguards demanded by traditionalists, such as allowing male "super-bishops" to cater for those against the reforms. Instead, opponents will be able to call in a male bishop from another diocese.
Some 1,300 clergy had threatened to leave the Church if safeguards were not agreed to reassure objectors, the report says.
According to the BBC, opponents of women’s ordination as bishops had made the threat to leave in a letter to the archbishops of Canterbury and York, but critics said many of the signatories were retired rather than serving clergy.
The BBC says that women in the Church had said any compromise allowing traditionalists to go to super-bishops instead of female bishops would create second-class clergy and institutionalize division.
Following six hours of debate on Monday, which saw one bishop in tears, the Synod rejected both the super-bishops proposal as well as the traditionalists’ preferred option of new dioceses for objectors.
BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Piggot said the vote had been conclusive and was accompanied by emotional scenes, but traditionalists have warned that the decision could hasten the prospect of a split within the Church.
Conservatives who oppose the liberalization of Church teaching on issues such as homosexuality have already set up the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FoCA), which has promised to set up a council of bishops, the BBC stated.
During the debate at the University of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said he would be in favor of "a more rather than a less robust" form of accommodating traditionalists.
He added: "I am deeply unhappy with any scheme or any solution to this which ends up, as it were, structurally humiliating women who might be nominated to the episcopate."
The BBC reported that Synod member and traditionalist Gerry O’Brien was hissed as he alluded to the American and CanadianChurches, from whom traditionalists have split in protest at the ordination of an openly gay bishop in 2003.
O’Brien said: "We can force people out of the Church of England but I think the experience in America says you can’t force people out of the Anglican communion, because there are a lot of archbishops elsewhere in the world who will be more than ready to provide the support."
The Rt Rev John Broadhurst, the Bishop of Fulham and a traditionalist, told the BBC program Newsnight that the vote could lead to a split.
"I think a lot of us have made it quite clear if there isn’t proper provision for us to live in dignity, inevitably we’re driven out," he said. "It’s not a case of walking away."