With the question of the ministry of female bishops seeming to have lost some traction recently in the Church of England, can some defections to other provinces be in the offing?
Ruth Gledhill says the possibility is a distinct one.
Supporters of women priests said that female clergy and even male clergy could defect to the Methodist or Lutheran churches.
They could also go to Scotland, a liberal province of the Anglican Communion where two dioceses are seeking new bishops. It is believed that one could make history by electing Britain’s first woman bishop. Some might even emigrate to the United States, which, with Canada and Australia, already has women bishops.
Congregations could move as well, it is feared, as happened when women were ordained priests and Anglo-Catholics defected to the Orthodox or Roman Catholic churches. This would mean a loss to the Church of England of many thousands of worshippers. Many women, disillusioned with the male-dominated hierarchy, could also decide to stop going to church at all.
Shock and anger rang throughout the C of E last week when it was announced that a Revision Committee had
...voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice.
Advocacy group WATCH (Women and the Church) condemned the measures as disappointing, using language that should be familiar to Episcopalians.
What is being proposed by the Revision Committee needs further clarification but we do not believe that statutory transfer can avoid creating a two tier episcopate. This would be demeaning to women and would fundamentally damage the office of bishop in our church.
Moreover, were such proposals to pass through our church synods, the Church of England would be in the extraordinary position of asking Parliament to ratify legislation that institutionally discriminates against women.