BY CHRISTINA WHITE
A QUARTER of Church of England clergy are opposed to the ordination of women as bishops according to a new survey.
Eight years on from the ordination of women priests, the Church of England now faces a battle to persuade Synod that women should be ordained to the episcopate.
The General Synod, which is currently meeting in York, will debate the case for ordination. As The Catholic Herald went to press, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, of Rochester was expected to present the fmdings of an ongoing Church commission on the issue.
But a poll conducted by Christian Research highlighted opposition to women bishops. More than 2,000 laity and 2,000 clergy were questioned for the survey.
Twenty-five per cent of clergy said "there should not be any women bishops anywhere", with 20 per cent indicating that they may leave the church. Five per cent signalled their "clear and definite" intention to leave if women bishops are ordained. More than half the AngloCatholics interviewed opposed women bishops.
A leading Anglo-Catholic clergyman said the opposition was much higher than anticipated. The Rev Robbie Low, vicar of Bushey Heath, Watford, described the C of E as a "very difficult place for traditional believers to exist at the moment".
The degree of opposition to women bishops that still exists has surprised Church observers, because of the large number of traditionalists who left the Anglican church in the early 1990s after the ordination of women priests.
A spokesman for the C of E said the issue was still under discussion and did not represent an immediate concern. "It would be right for many people to reserve their position until they had seen the result of these deliberations," he said.
A spokesman for the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales said the two communions were "not particularly close" at the present time. "This is just another issue among many that have to be resolved," he said.
But he confirmed that Anglican clergy would be welcomed into the Catholic Church.
"If they decide they can't stay within the C of E it is probable that they will come to Rome and we welcome them with open arms. That has always been the position with the Pope," he said.
Procedures are already in place for the reception of Anglican clergy. In 1993, the Vatican granted a special dispensation for the retraining of Anglican clergy seeking communion with Rome. That dispensation will be renewed later this month.