MP adds to pressure over women bishops

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Pressure on the Church of England to allow women bishops will increase next week when an MP launches a bid to force it to do so by law.

Campaigners said Diana Johnson’s Bill would act as a reminder to Church leaders that Parliament had the power to intervene if they failed to do so.

The Labour MP for Hull North said senior clerics were showing “little urgency” to make progress since the CofE was plunged into crisis and recrimination in November when its General Synod voted down plans to allow females to take the senior roles.

She was meeting yesterday – International Women’s Day – with the Bishop of Hull and local female clergy to discuss the issue ahead of Wednesday’s introduction of her Bishops (Consecration of Women) in the Commons.

It would extend the 1992 General Synod decision to allow women to more senior roles, but has no realistic prospect of progressing.

Last year’s Synod vote against women bishops prompted a wave of political condemnation, including from Prime Minister David Cameron. The draft measure was carried in the Houses of Bishops and Clergy but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members.

New Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is leading efforts to broker a new compromise but concedes that there remain “significant divisions within the Anglican communion” on the issue.

Ms Johnson told MPs that a Church paper looking at ways forward “could have been written by Sir Humphrey Appleby” – the Whitehall civil servant from comedy series Yes, Minister famous for clouding issues. “It shows little urgency and, with both sides further apart, even less prospect of progress in July.

“Is it not time that the House took a stand and supported my...Bill?”

Tory MP Tony Baldry, who represents the Church Commissioners in the Commons, told MPs this week that the Church was “moving as fast as humanly possible” and urged them to be cautious in trying to intervene in “matters of doctrine and worship”.

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