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Cleric slammed over WWII comments

A Church of England cleric has been criticised for making "mind-boggling" comments comparing the debate over women bishops to the outbreak of the Second World War.

The Right Rev Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes in East Sussex, told hundreds of people at a Church conference that he felt the situation was like "January of 1939", with an imminent prospect of "serious warfare".

Speaking at the Reform conference of conservative Anglicans in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, he said: "I feel very much increasingly that we're in January of 1939. What we must not do is create a phoney war, but we need to be aware that there is real serious warfare just around the corner. It's actually arrived in some places already."

The bishop, who is set to retire in two years' time, said the Church of England he was ordained into is "not the same Church today".

Christina Rees, of Women and the Church (Watch), a supporter of women's ordination, said the bishop's views were "demeaning".

Ms Rees described the comparison to the outbreak of war as "mind-boggling", and added: "It's so unhelpful, because it's not where the Church is."

The bishop has said he intended his comments to be "Churchillian".

A statement issued from his office read: "The Bishop of Lewes never mentioned Hitler or the Nazis in his address at the Reform Conference.

"He said that the situation in which we find ourselves in the Church feels like people probably felt as they viewed the year ahead in January 1939. There are storm clouds on the horizon and warfare around the corner. We all hope and pray that it won't happen."

The Church of England Synod is to meet next year to debate the issue of women bishops.


From Belfast Telegraph