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Women Bishops: Rev Lucy Winkett Church of England Cleric Urges Delays On Legislation To Introduce Women Bishops

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Rev Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James's Piccadilly, central London,
Rev Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James's Piccadilly, central London,

One of the Church of England's most prominent female clerics has urged delays to legislation introducing women bishops after last minute amendments to the ruling.

The Rev Lucy Winkett is among a group of senior women clergy who have written to members of the General Synod objecting to an amendment added to the legislation earlier this year by the Church of England bishops aimed at ensuring that male bishops selected to minister to parishes who oppose women bishops have views "consistent with the theological convictions" of objectors.

Pro-women campaigners have claimed the move would enshrine in law a class of "pedigree" bishop who has not been "tainted" by ordaining women as priests.

The Rector of St James's Piccadilly, central London, who is widely tipped as a likely candidate to become one of the first women bishops in the Church of England, called for an adjournment of a debate to give final approval for legislation introducing women bishops due to be held in eight days' time at the General Synod of the Church of England in York.

The Rev Winkett told BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme that she and other signatories of the letter were asking for an adjournment of the debate to give final approval to the legislation.

"What we are asking for is the House of Bishops to think again about the wording of their amendment.

"Ideally, we would like them to withdraw that amendment.

"We are not doing this lightly - all four women deans of the cathedrals have signed this letter, nine archdeacons, other women clergy. This is a moment to imagine the Church's future in 20, 40, 50 years' time," she said."

She added: "What we are concerned about is the effect of the amendment, because the effect will be to enshrine and legislate for a principle that being male is not enough for those who object to women's ministry.

"It explicitly endorses any view that leads to a parish saying not only do we require a male bishop, but we require a man who has never ordained a woman, who does not believe that women can be ordained.

"Crucially that endorses, it puts at the centre of the institution, an endorsement of that principle that carries with it a variety of views including some pretty unpleasant objections to women that we think that no institution, especially not a church, should be endorsing."

The intervention by the senior female clergy comes after years of torturous negotiations within the Church of England about how best to introduce women bishops while attempting to meet the demands of traditionalists who will not accept female clergy.

The Church of England was poised to give final approval this month to legislation introducing women bishops which would also allow provision for male bishops to be appointed to minister to objector parishes. The move has been billed as the biggest decision the Church of England has taken in the 20 years since women priests were given approval in 1992.

But a decision by the Church of England bishops to add two amendments to the legislation in May has run into trouble from campaigners for women bishops, with some threatening to vote against the legislation at the final approval stage.

The legislation - which needs a two-thirds majority in each of the General Synod's three Houses of bishops, clergy and laity, has also failed to win approval from some traditionalists.

The conservative evangelical group Reform have said they will encourage its members to vote against the legislation if it reaches the final approval stage.

If the 470-member General Synod votes to make the House of Bishops re-think the legislation, it is thought likely that the debate will return to the General Synod in November.