Church of England nears vote on women bishops

The Church of England paved the way on Thursday for a final vote on women bishops to go ahead in July, but supporters angry at last-minute concessions to traditionalists who favour an all-male clergy immediately threatened to scupper it.

After more than a decade of bitter wrangling, traditionalists and liberals appeared no closer to finding a workable blueprint this week with the opposing sides predicting future chaos or departures from the Anglican mother church.

A rare decision by bishops on Monday to make two amendments to accommodate Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals, seems to have stoked tempers still further.

The consecration of women, along with homosexual bishops and same-sex marriages, is among the most divisive issues facing the 77 million members of the Anglican Communion around the world.

Other Anglican provinces already have women bishops, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The next Archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, will inherit these problems when he takes over from the outgoing Rowan Williams next year.

Coincidentally, a group called the Crown Nominations Commission met on Thursday for the first time in a long process to choose the next archbishop. [More]