THE TIMES -- October 20, 2010 12:00AM
WOMEN bishops in the Church of England are under threat after the results of elections to its governing body showed a swing against their consecration.
Early analysis of last week's elections to the General Synod showed that gains by evangelicals and traditionalist Anglo-Catholics had jeopardised the prospect of women bishops being consecrated.
The synod is elected every five years. The new synod, which consists of three houses of laity, clergy and bishops, will be inaugurated by the Queen, supreme governor of the Church of England, at Westminster Abbey next month.
The synod has been debating women's ordination for three decades and narrowly backed women priests in 1992. The first women were ordained at Bristol cathedral on Easter 1994.
The legislation to consecrate women bishops is in its final stages and is at present being debated by the 44 dioceses. It is due to return to the synod in 2012, when it will need a two-thirds majority from the three houses.
This would be a significant development in the Church of England, and it will give hope to Anglican conservatives and traditionalists that all is not lost, but it should be remembered that if it eventuates in 2012, the C of E's rejection of the consecration of women as bishops will owe more to a political alliance between Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics than any consensus formed under Biblical teaching. The only thing the Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics will agree on is that women cannot be bishops. As to what a bishop actually is, that is a question they are divided upon. Such is the 'broad church' that is Anglicanism.
Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong in having a divergence of practises in regard to episcope (ecclesial oversight); the Lutheran Church can and does exist quite happily with or without bishops, since we do not regard episcopacy as a divinely mandated form of church government. But that is precisely the question on which Anglican Evangelicals and Catholics disagree - in Anglicanism, is episcopacy of the esse (being), or only the bene esse (well being) of the church?
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