THE Archbishop of Canterbury has acknowledged that a schism in
the Church of England may be triggered by last week's decision to
let women be ordained to the priesthood.
As a minority of clergy and laity angered by a move overturning
450 years of tradition met to plan future strategy, Archbishop
George Carey said he would do everything possible to persuade them
to stay in the church's mainstream. He argued that the historic
vote by his church's ruling synod was "the will of God" and should
Dr. Carey's pleas were directed mainly at some 1,000 of the
Church of England's 10,000 priests who told an opinion poll
conducted by the British Broadcasting Corporation that they would
desert the Church of England if the ordination of women went ahead
as planned. One in 5 Anglican churchgoers told the same survey that
they would not accept women as priests.
The archbishop, who spoke in favor of women priests during the
synod debate, said after the vote: "Please don't go elsewhere. Stay
with us. Let's work together."
He told the synod: "We must draw on all our available talent if
we are to be a credible church engaged in a mission to an
increasingly confused and lost world. We are in danger of not being
heard if women are exercising leadership in every area of society's
life save the ordained priesthood."
But high-profile Anglicans in the British government declined
Carey's pleas and said they would either leave the church
completely or join congregations that refused to be ministered to
by women priests.
After the vote, Social Security Minister Ann Widdecombe said she
was leaving the Church of England after 27 years because "the
wounds caused by the decision will not heal."
John Selwyn Gummer, secretary of state for agriculture and a
leading Anglican layman, commented: "I have always said that if the
Church of England decided to ordain women, it would become a sect,
and I could not be a member of a sect." And Patrick Cormack, a
senior Conservative members of Parliament who is vice president of
the English Clergy Association, said it was "impossible for women
to become priests."
The Church of England is established in Britain's unwritten
constitution. The Queen is described as "head of the church and
defender of the faith."
In the synod debate, opponents of women priests fell into two
main categories: those who believe there is no scriptural basis for
ordaining women as priests, and others unhappy with how the
legislation was drafted.
But for some 1,300 women Anglican deacons, the decision by all
three houses of the synod - representing bishops, clergy, and laity
- was cause for rejoicing.
Deaconess Maggie Durran, who serves in a London parish, said the
vote gave hope to the church. …