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Friday 5th November, 2010
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News Extra

Church of England should drop plans for women Bishops

if major split would result, Bishop Tom Wright tells Gazette

Bishop Tom Wright
Bishop Tom Wright in Donegal Town

Speaking to the Gazette editor in an interview while visiting Ireland, Bishop Tom Wright, former Bishop of Durham and now a Research Professor at the University of St Andrews, has said that the Church of England should not proceed to the consecration of women as Bishops if the move were to create a large division.

He said: "my own position is quite clear on this, that I have supported women Bishops in print and in person. I’ve spoken in Synod in favour of going that route, but I don’t think it’s something that ought to be done at the cost of a major division in the Church."

Bishop Wright warned that if the Church of England were not able to resolve the matter "a ‘quick fix’ resolution" would be "a recipe for long-term disaster".

Asked to comment on the Vatican's ‘ordinariate’ scheme to enable Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church, and the desire in a parish at Folkestone to change allegiance, bishop Wright said that people had thought that there were "dozens of parishes ready to jump", adding: "many of the Roman Catholic bishops that I know in England were not terribly happy at the thought that they might have to administer this kind of whole extra wrinkle on top of the complicated structure they’ve already got, and I did hear one Roman Catholic priest - how representative I don’t know - saying we’ve got quite enough traditionalists in our own Church without having all yours as well."

The Bishop said he considered the ordinariate proposal to have been "the result of a bit of a turf war going on within the Vatican", adding that it had been promulgated on a day when Cardinal Kasper, then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, had been "out of town".

Asked if he thought the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, aimed at keeping the global Communion together, would become a reality, Bishop Wright said: "I think so, because I don’t think really there’s any alternative." He said the Communion could not afford to have "the kind of unstructured mess that we’ve had".

Bishop Wright said that the Covenant "doesn’t foreclose on particular issues". Rather, he explained, it "provides a framework within which you can have the discussion in a way which tries to keep all parties at the table. obviously if parties decide to walk away from the table that’s their business, but without some sort of a structured framework what happens is, as always, that the loudest voices tend to win, or at least drown out the other ones, and I have seen that happen and it’s not a pretty sight."

Asked to comment on what would happen if the Church of England rejected the Covenant proposal, Bishop Wright said: "That is always a possibility, and if that happens, then I suppose the thing would be dead in the water. but that’s a notional possibility which I don’t actually see as realistic." Bishop Wright was visiting Ireland to give a series of talks to the 18th-21st October Down and Dromore clergy conference, held in Donegal Town.

The full interview can he heard online here