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Wed Apr 23 11:11:29 SAST 2014

Anglicans postpone vote on women bishops

Sapa-AFP | 09 July, 2012 14:43
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams (C) with some bishops.
Image by: PHILIMON BULAWAYO / REUTERS

The Church of England has postponed a final decision on whether to ordain women bishops.

The General Synod, the governing body of the worldwide Anglican Communion's mother church, voted instead to hold further discussions on a last-minute amendment that had angered senior female clergy.

A final vote is now likely in November.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the communion's spiritual leader, told the meeting at the University of York in northern England that the adjournment would help "lower the temperature" over the debate.

"It is quite clear that the reaction cannot be ignored," he said.

"When there is a reaction of real hurt and offence in the Church, Christians, and Christian pastors in particular, cannot afford to ignore it."

The General Synod members voted 288 in favour of an adjournment, 144 against and 15 abstained.

It had as recently as Friday voted to hold the final vote on Monday.

The last-ditch amendment would have given traditionalist parishes the right of access to an alternative male bishop who shares their views about women clergy.

Pro-women campaigners have claimed this would enshrine discrimination against women in law, and therefore threatened to vote alongside traditionalists.

Williams warned last week that the Church was "looking into the abyss" over the issue and said that a vote against women bishops would put it off the agenda until 2015.

The legislation will need a two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod -- laity, clergy and bishops -- if it is to get final approval.

If it clears the final hurdle it will then go for approval in the Houses of Parliament before receiving royal assent, paving the way for the first women bishops in 2014.

The Church of England -- the officially established state church in England -- voted to create women priests in 1992 and they now constitute around a third of all its priests.

The 61-year-old Williams will step down as church leader in December after a decade in the post.

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Wed Apr 23 11:11:29 SAST 2014 ::