London, June 13: Centuries of Anglican tradition were s wept asideyesterday when a British church voted for the first time to allow the appointment of female bishops.
The decision was taken at the general synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and the country’s first female bishop could be appointed as early as next year.
The 178-member synod — which some traditionalists claim has been “hijacked by feminists” — heard passionate speeches on both sides of the argument, but voted overwhelmingly in favour of the historic move.
The Most Rev Bruce Cameron, Bishop of Aberdeen, and primus of the church, said: “The decision that we have just taken is a momentous one.”
“For some it will be received with great joy, for others with real pain.”
“But I want to reassure everyone who has taken part in this debate that we will be sensitive to all in our church,” the bishop added.
Anglican churches in America, Canada and New Zealand have women bishops.
The Church of England has resisted the move but has set up a theological commission to examine the issue.
The result of the secret ballot in Edinburgh yesterday was met with applause from the church’s seven bishops — who all were in favour — and from the clergy and lay members.
It is now possible that the first woman bishop could be in place in 2004, following the impending retirement of the Rt Reverend Douglas Cameron, Bishop of Argyll and the Isles.
But the Very Rev Miriam Byrne, Provost of Dundee Cathedral — the most senior woman in the Church — said: “The first woman bishop should not be chosen because of her sex, but because she has the right gifts.”
Christina Rees, of WATCH (Women and the Church), said she hoped the Church of England was listening.
“I very much hope the mother Church of the Anglican Communion can catch up,” she added.
The Rev Trevor Stevens, who opposed the motion, said the Church of England had shown itself to be “of a different mind” by appointing a commission.
He added: “The Rochester Commission reports soon, and I wonder whether the cause of justice for women in our church would be greatly hampered by waiting six months or so and humbly seeking to learn from its insights.”