LONDON, MAR. 20, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Anglican Church is expected to ordain women bishops within seven years after senior clergy formed a working party to examine the issue, The Times reported today.
Anglican leaders are determined to press ahead, even though the ordination of women bishops could prove even more divisive than that of women priests, the newspaper said.
The Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, Anglican bishop of Rochester and chairman of the working party, said: “The unity of the church is very important but it can never contradict the church´s basic commitment to justice.”
Oddly, the move has the backing of key traditionalists, who believe that women bishops would strengthen their argument for a third province, or “church within a church,” the Times said. This would provide a haven for priests and worshippers opposed to women priests and bishops.
Women are consecrated to the episcopacy in Canada, the United States and New Zealand. The Anglican Church of Australia is expected to decide in favor of women bishops in July. In the United Kingdom, Scotland is expected to be the first province to ordain women bishops.
After more than 15 years of debate, women priests were ordained for the first time in the Church of England in 1994. This prompted an exodus of nearly 500 male clergy. The Church of England now has more than 1,000 stipendiary women priests, more than 10% of the total.
The damaging impact of women bishops on relations with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches will be one of the main areas that will examined by the working party, which includes clergy and theologians and senior lay people. The party´s findings are not a foregone conclusion, as it includes a number of influential opponents of women priests, the Times said.
Any move toward women bishops would first require the agreement of the General Synod. The resulting measure would have to be OK´d by Parliament and receive royal assent. The working party will present its initial report next year.