General Synod backs women bishops

The General Synod of the Church of England has endorsed a compromise proposal to permit women bishops.

On 19 November 2013 members of the synod voted 378 to 8 for the plan, with 25 abstentions. It includes protections for congregations and clergy opposed to women bishops, including an ombudsman to referee disputes.

The vote could see final legislation permitting women bishops adopted by the July 2014 session of General Synod.

However, key issues need still to be resolved, including the authority of the ombudsman. As the plan is currently drafted, decisions made by an ombudsman are “recommendations” without legal force. Clergy who failed to follow the ombudsman’s recommendations could be disciplined, a bishop could not.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu warned Synod against a premature celebration.

“We should not open the champagne bottles or whatever drink we regard as celebratory because we need to agree to work together until the end,” he said.

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