Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Church of England Votes for Women Bishops; Some See Move as Ecumenical Snag

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Church of England Votes for Women Bishops; Some See Move as Ecumenical Snag

Article excerpt

VATICAN CITY * After nearly 20 years of debate, the Church of England's General Synod voted July 14 to permit women priests to be ordained as bishops, overturning centuries of tradition in a church that has been deeply divided over the issue.

Observers at the Vatican warned that the decision would have "an extremely negative impacton steps to bring the churches closer together, despite a positive meeting between Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis in June.

Before the vote, Welby, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, told the synod, "To pass this legislation is to commit ourselves to an adventure in faith and hope. Like all adventures, it carries dangers ... uncertainties, and for success will require integrity and courage."

Welby characterized the debate as involving "genuine theological arguments which differ," and not simply differences based on cultural influences regarding the role of women.

The synod also approved motions pledging to respect and work with people who believe that, theologically, the vote was a mistake. Welby called on the House of Bishops to act on the promises by setting up a procedure for ensuring the place in the church of those who disagree.

"You don't chuck out family or even make it difficult for them to be at home," he said. "You love them and seek their well-being even when you disagree." The vote came after several hours of debate, much of it focused on whether or not the motion offered sufficient guarantees for the place and pastoral care of those with theological grounds for opposing the ordination of women, and on commitments to keep the Church of England united despite differing positions.

After the vote, the Anglo-Catholic group Forward in Faith issued a statement saying it was pleased that the Church of England "is committed to providing bishops and priests for our parishes, enabling us to flourish in the life and structures of our church." However, the group also said it was "deeply concerned about the consequences for the wider unity of the whole church. …

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