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Warmth on women bishops

29 November 2013

stuart nicholson

Witness: Catholic Anglicans gathered in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday for an event, "The Vision Glorious", to recommit themselves to faith

Witness: Catholic Anglicans gathered in Wakefield Cathedral on Saturday for an event, "The Vision Glorious", to recommit themselves to faith

THE "strikingly warm and friendly" tone noted by the Archbishop of Canterbury after the women-bishops debate at the General Synod last week was reflected in reactions issued in the days that followed.

Immediately after the debate, the Revd Anne Stevens, a vice-chair of WATCH, said: "What a difference a year makes. For the last 12 months, people on all sides of the debate have worked closely together on the new provisions, and we saw the fruits of that in today's very positive and good-humoured debate." A statement from the Catholic Group issued after the vote said that it "welcomes the new atmosphere of trust and reconciliation".

MPs celebrated news of the vote with questions to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, in the Commons. Martin Vickers, the Conservative MP for Cleethorpes, asked whether Sir Tony was confident that "the Church can now move on from these endless internal debates and start preaching the gospel and working for the good of society."

Those unable to accept the ministry of women bishops had begun to prepare for a changed landscape. On Monday of last week, the Bishop of Pontefract, the Rt Revd Tony Robinson, chairman of the Council of Bishops of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda, wrote to all supporters of the society, which was was formed in 2010 to give "some sort of identity" to Catholic clergy and laity who are opposed to women bishops, but do not wish to leave the Church of England ( News, 1 October 2010).

The letter explains that the so- ciety and Forward in Faith will be "two sides of the same coin", the former focusing on "mission, sacramental ministry and pastoral care".

The same day, Prebendary Rod Thomas, who chairs Reform and was one of the members of the steering committee that voted to commend the proposals to the General Synod, said that "key issues" remained unresolved, including the nature of the oath of canonical obedience. He warned: "If major concerns remain at final approval, we will not support them."

On Wednesday of last week, after the vote, the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, said: "We still need to work hard with conservative Evangelicals over headship."

On Monday, Margaret Brown, who chairs the Third Province Movement, suggested that provision for those unable to accept women as bishops should take the form of three Catholic provincial episcopal visitors, an Evangelical one, and two parishes in each deanery that were free from women priests.

On Wednesday of last week, the Prime Minister said that the Government was "ready to work with the Church to see how we can get women bishops into the House of Lords as soon as possible".

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