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Church of England poised to choose first female bishop by Christmas

Church of England poised to choose first female bishop by Christmas
Diocese indicates it could choose the first of the Church of England's women bishops by the end of the year

By Edward Malnic
November 14, 2014

The Church of England’s 14-year journey towards the appointment of women bishops is centred on a handful of areas that could have a female leader in place by Christmas.

There are nine vacant posts across the country that could be filled by the Church’s first female bishop once legislation permitting the change is enacted on Monday.

The panel considering candidates for one of the four diocesan vacancies has announced that it could choose to appoint a female bishop when it meets early next month to make a final decision.
Members of the Southwell and Nottingham diocese have already indicated their willingness to have a female leader by submitting a “statement of needs” to the panel, which for the first time refers to their next bishop as “he or she”.

In response, the panel, the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC), has indicated that it might already have lined up female candidates to be interviewed as part of its two-day meeting starting on Dec 2. It held an initial meeting on Nov 3 to draw up a shortlist of candidates.

In a statement on the diocese’s website, the six representatives on the CNC from the Southwell and Nottingham diocese said: “You may have seen several recent articles concerning women candidates. Parliament has now given approval, both in the Lords and Commons, to the General Synod Measure enabling women to be appointed to the Episcopate.

"General Synod is being asked in November to approve a Canon which, when agreed, will enshrine the legislation in church law. This means that we are able to consider female as well as male candidates.”
In addition to Southwell and Nottingham there are three other diocesan bishoprics that are currently vacant and will be filled next year: Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle.

The Church has also yet to appoint new suffragan bishops of Dunwich, Hertford, Hull, Plymouth and Stockport. In each case the diocesan bishop chooses the new suffragan, making the process quicker than the appointment of clerics through the Crown Nominations Commission.

The canon allowing women to become bishops is due to be formally enacted when the General Synod meets in London on Monday. The CNC members from Nottingham and Southwell indicated that they planned to make their final decision next month, but said a public announcement was unlikely to be made until the New Year, following the formal approval of the Prime Minister and the Queen.
Prominent figures such as the Very Rev Dr June Osborne, the Dean of Salisbury, and the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, the Dean of York, have been widely tipped as candidates for the senior roles.

Other prominent female clerics such as the Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the chaplain to the House of Commons, and the Rev Lucy Winkett, the Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, in central London, could also be considered for a mitre.

Last month the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, disclosed that all the main Westminster political parties had signalled their support for a plan to fast-track the first women bishops into the House of Lords.


Female clerics coached for bishop selection as Church of England prepares for historic change
Women priests being primed for a shot at being a female CofE bishop
Archbishops of Canterbury and York set to sign women bishops legislation into law in front of General Synod

By John Bingham
Religious Affairs Editor
November 16, 2014

A string of senior female priests have been given special training to put them in prime position to become bishops in the Church of England when a historic change in canon law comes into force, the cleric who oversaw the process has disclosed.

The Rt Rev James Langstaff, the Bishop of Rochester, said there had been a major push to ensure that any female candidates interviewed for vacant sees in the coming months have the same chance as their male counterparts, some of whom may have been preparing for the process for years.

The decades-long campaign to open up the most senior positions in the Established Church to women will reach its conclusion when the Archbishops of Canterbury and York formally sign the change into law in front of the ruling General Synod in London on Monday

Members will also be asked to signal their approval in a show of hands for the legislation which they passed overwhelmingly in July and which has already received Royal Assent.

The first female bishops in England could be appointed before the end of this year if a handful of dioceses with vacancies for junior bishops -- known as suffragans -- move quickly. The timing has even led to speculation of a race to be the first.

The process of selecting the most senior bishops, those in charge of dioceses, involves a more lengthy process meaning that the first female diocesan bishop is unlikely to be announced before the New Year.

Yesterday Ladbrokes, the bookmaker, installed the Very Rev Jane Hedges, the Dean of Norwich, as favourite to become the first female bishop at odds of three to one.

The Church's most senior lay official, the Secretary General William Fittall, told a Parliamentary committee in July that in cases where there was a tie between two equal candidates of opposite sexes, selection panels would be able to use a form of positive discrimination.

Bishop Langstaff, who was responsible for successfully steering the women bishops legislation through the Synod, disclosed that female would-be candidates had been given extra training to ensure they are as well prepared as men who may already have been through the process.

He told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme: "What we are doing is some affirmative action rather than discrimination in that some real efforts have been made and are being made to make sure that those women who now may be candidates are able to be, as it were, on the level with their male colleagues who have been looking at this for some time.

"Therefore developing women for senior leadership has been a strand which has been given attention for some months now, indeed for longer.

"It is important that women who are interviewed for these posts are able to be considered absolutely on the level with their male colleagues."

The most senior diocesan bishoprics usually go to candidates who already have experience of the episcopate having served as suffragans.

But Bishop Langstaff said there was no reason female candidates could not jump straight into one of the more senior roles after the law changes. Three years ago the then Dean of Liverpool, Justin Welby, was announced as the new Bishop of Durham, the fourth most senior post in the Church. He was in the role for only around a year when he was called to serve as Archbishop of Canterbury.

"Just as it is possible for men in the past to go straight from being vicars of parishes or from other roles in cathedrals to being a diocesan bishop there is no theoretical reason at all why a woman shouldn't," said Bishop Langstaff.

"We have got some very very experienced, very spiritual women in senior posts so it is not impossible."

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