Diocesan Synod of Blackburn votes for women bishops

The Bishop of Burnley, the Right Reverend John Goddard
Image caption The Bishop of Burnley is opposed to women bishops

The Diocesan Synod of Blackburn Diocese has narrowly voted in favour of current proposals for the introduction of women bishops into the Church of England.

The motion was carried in two of the three houses of the synod with support from the laity and clergy groups.

The house of Bishops voted three to one against.

In a second motion, the synod voted in favour of better provision within the church for those who cannot accept the principle of women bishops.

The decisions, taken before a packed synod at St. Cuthbert's in Fulwood, were largely welcomed by those who have campaigned for women bishops.

'Hold our views'

The Reverend David Gibb from St. Andrew's in Leyland said: "What's been good today is that synod, even though it has agreed to take forward the proposals on women bishops, has said to those who struggle with that proposal that there might still be place for you in the Church of England.

"It is encouraging because if we are to be a national church, a church for all, we need to be there for everybody."

Those opposed to the current situation say their campaign will continue and they will not take any decision about their future in the church until the General Synod makes a final decision about how their views will be facilitated in the church.

Father Roger Parker, from St. Catherine's in Burnley and chair of the opposition group Forward in Faith, said: "Every day's a new day. The almighty is asking us to stay where we are and to get on with the job on the ground.

"We will continue with that until we are told by the church that we can't hold our views and we must go."

The result will surprise many observers around the country because the Blackburn Diocese is felt by some to be resistant to womens' ministry.

The Reverend Nancy Goodrich from Kirkham Clergy told the synod that reputation is unfair. "My experience is that this diocese is great. It's been brilliant. Yes we have these strong voices against the ordination of women but on the ground, in the parishes, most people are fine."

Leave the church

Only two dioceses of the 30 in England who have voted have opposed the proposals and so it appears that when the General Synod meets in July, for what may be final discussions on the issue, it will have been largely supported within the church.

Those opposed to the introduction of women bishops say there is a long way to go before a two thirds majority is achieved in General Synod and the proposals are passed for parliamentary assent.

Despite speculation to the contrary, the Bishop of Burnley, who is opposed to women bishops, says he is not preparing to leave the church on the issue.

What appears crucial to the progress of the introduction of women bishops and the future of those opposed to the principle, is the long-term provision for those unable to accept women bishops to say within the church.

After the vote, the Right Reverend John Goddard commented "I'm not saying I would leave the church. I am saying if there is no proper adequate provision made then we will find people being excluded from the church."

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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