As the Church of England’s General Synod begins, some Anglo-Catholic leaders have said if their concerns about the introduction of women bishops are not addressed they will withdraw their resources from the Anglican Church and focus them on ministries outside the formal church structure.
The Church of England introduced women to its priesthood in 1994. It is committed to the consecration of female bishops as well, The Telegraph reports, but controversy continues about the implementation.
Many of those who favor female bishops argue they should be introduced on the same basis and with the same powers as men. They fear the development of a two-tier system.
Those who oppose female bishops argue they had been assured that provisions would be made for them. They point to the current “flying bishops” arrangement for parishes that cannot accept the oversight of female vicars and so have bishops from other regions as their overseers.
The traditionalists, led by a group called Reform, seek either an entirely new province that could cover all of England or extra junior bishops in dioceses that had not ordained women bishops and would be answerable only to an archbishop.
The debate has been postponed until July. However, according to the Telegraph, Anglican Bishop of Manchester Nigel McCulloch’s comments to Synod members on Monday suggested that the proposals desired by traditionalists are no longer being considered.
He said that parishes with “conscientious difficulties” about women’s ordination would be addressed by means of a bishop chosen by delegation from diocesan bishops. According to the Anglican website Virtue Online, this would still be unacceptable to some Anglicans because the diocesan bishops would include women.
The Synod’s Anglo-Catholic group said it was “deeply disappointed and dismayed” by Bishop McCulloch’s statement. The group said it believed the vast majority of Church of England members would not want to see the episcopal consecration of women as the “trigger for the exclusion from the church of a large number of faithful Anglicans.”
“We have to say that if the legislation were to be passed in its present form, that is precisely what would happen.”
Rev. Rod Thomas, chairman of the Reform group, said traditionalists’ understanding was that proper provision would be made for those who did not believe in the consecration of women bishops.
"It seems to us a matter of simple integrity that Synod should now keep its word to us in this and not force us down a road none of us wish to tread.”
His group’s clergy claim to have contributed more than $34 million to the Anglican Church over the past decade and to have helped more than 180 men into ordained ministry, with 50 percent of those men being under the age of 30.
They warned that the introduction of women bishops without safeguards for objectors would render them unable to contribute to dioceses. Rather, they would spend resources on ministries “outside the formal structures of the Church of England,” a statement from Reform says.
The Catholic Church does not recognize the Anglican priesthood and episcopacy as validly ordained. The Church also teaches that the ordination of women is a sacramental impossibility.
Last year Pope Benedict XVI announced a special ordinariate for Anglicans seeking to enter full communion with the Catholic Church.