Church faces women bishops battle
The Church of England is facing another major battle as legislation to consecrate women bishops is due to pass a further key hurdle.
Members of the Church's national assembly, the General Synod, will gather at York University on Friday for a five-day meeting dominated by the issue with a marathon 15 hours of debate scheduled on the topic.
It will also be overshadowed by a growing row over a decision by church leaders to block the appointment of a gay cleric as Bishop of Southwark.
The Very Rev Jeffrey John, who is the Dean of St Albans, was rejected as a candidate to replace the Rt Rev Dr Tom Butler, who retired earlier this year as Bishop of Southwark.
Traditionalists warned that appointing Dr John as the new Bishop would cause "very serious damage" to the Church, sparking another row with modernisers.
As part of the gathering's main business, the assembly will consider draft legislation creating women bishops without the safeguards demanded by objectors such as new dioceses or a special class of bishop to cater for dissenters.
Instead, women bishops would have the authority to make local arrangements for objectors if necessary after referring to a statutory code of practice.
The legislation is likely to come under fierce attack from conservative evangelicals and Anglo Catholics, some of whom are threatening to leave the Church of England if their demands are not met.
A total of 41 amendments to the legislation have been tabled to the draft legislation from supporters and opponents. The amendments include proposed new concessions for opponents put by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams - both of whom back women bishops - in a last-ditch attempt to avoid a split over the issue.
A Church of England spokesman said the debates - due to start on Friday and finish possibly as late as Tuesday - did not represent a final stage in the introduction of women bishops. If the legislation clears this hurdle, he said, a majority of the diocesan synods of the Church of England would then need to approve the legislation and there would then be further consideration by the General Synod in 2012.