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Ecumenical unity still vital despite women bishops vote, says Welby

18 July 2014


"We need each other": Archbishop Welby welcomes  the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios III, to Lambeth Palace, during a visit to the UK to appeal for reconciliation in Syria, last October. The Archbishops shared a meal and prayers for peace in the Middle East

"We need each other": Archbishop Welby welcomes  the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, Gregorios III, to Lambeth Palace, during a visit t...

THE Archbishop of Canterbury admitted on Thursday that allowing women into the episcopate will be a "further difficulty" on the road to unity with other Churches.

In a letter to the Church of England's ecumenical partners, Archbishop Welby wrote that, while some denominations would warmly welcome the vote at the General Synod on Monday, others would considered it a mistake.

"It is clear to me that whilst our theological dialogue will face new challenges, there is nonetheless so much troubling our world today that our common witness to the Gospel is of more importance than ever", he wrote.

The Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said in a statement after the Synod vote that "the decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate sadly places a further obstacle on the path to this unity between us".

The statement affirmed the RC Church's commitment to ecumenical dialogue, however, and thanked the House of Bishops for the pastoral provision promised to traditional Catholics who opposed women bishops.

Archbishop Welby acknowledged in his letter that the Synod's decision had divided the C of E. "This is an occasion of deep rejoicing for many, especially for many of the women clergy in the Church of England. They feel that this decision affirms their place and ministry in the life of the Church.

"For others in the Church of England, the decision may be a source of disappointment and concern."

He quoted the five principles from the House of Bishops' declaration, the third of which acknowledges that the C of E shares the historic episcopate with Churches including the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which ordain only men as priests and bishops.

"The Church of England acknowledges that its own clear decision on ministry and gender is set within a broader process of discernment within the Anglican Communion and the whole Church of God," the third principle concludes.

The letter also praised the "Christian charity" of the Synod debate and said there was a determination not to let sincere theological differences split the Church in two.

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