Welsh clergy block approval of women bishops

Published May 1, 2008

Welsh Anglican clergy narrowly voted on April 2 against a measure to allow women to be appointed to the episcopate. The measure was supported unanimously by their bishops.

At a meeting of the Church in Wales synod, the bill to provide for the ordination of female bishops failed to get a necessary two-thirds majority in one of the three chambers of the church’s governing body. The House of Laity backed the bill by 52 votes to 19 but the House of Clergy only voted 27 to 18 in favour, three votes short of the majority required in all three chambers for the measure to become canon law.

The Archbishop of Wales, Barry Morgan, in a statement issued later, expressed his deep disappointment but said it was not the end of the matter.

“Like this bill, the bill to ordain women to the priesthood (in Wales) was initially defeated but it came back to the governing body, and was passed 11 years ago. This is not the end for this bill either. It will not go away and it will not be ignored; it is something the Church in Wales will have to grapple with. But it saddens me that we will have to go through the whole process and all the work involved again.”

In December, more than 100 Welsh Anglican clergy signed a letter, published in Britain’s Church Times newspaper, warning that they would not accept the ministry of women bishops. Their spokesperson, Rev. Alan Rabjohns, told BBC Radio on April 1 that the matter was a question of authority and whether the Church in Wales, as a tiny province of a minority group within Christianity, had the right to change something that was part of a 2,000-year-old tradition. Mr. Rabjohns argued that Christ as God incarnate was male, and had chosen only male apostles.

Although Anglican women bishops may be ordained in Scotland and Ireland none has yet been elected. The issue is still before the Church of England synod. Anglican women bishops are allowed also in Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

Meanwhile, the Anglican Church of Australia has announced the appointment of its first woman bishop.

Archdeacon Kay Goldsworthy, who was one of the first women ordained to the priesthood in 1992, was chosen “with the unanimous endorsement of the diocesan council,” as bishop of Perth.


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