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Decision on women bishops welcomed in Shropshire

Shrewsbury | News | Published:

Bishop of Shrewsbury the Right Reverend Mark Rylands today welcomed the ruling to allow women to become bishops for the first time.

He said it was "good news" for the Church of England. The Anglican General Synod's change to canon law was passed by an overwhelming majority with a simple show of hands at its London meeting yesterday.

It comes 20 years after the first women were ordained as Church of England priests.

The General Synod overwhelmingly backed legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England in July and yesterday's vote rubber-stamped the move.

The Rev Preb Pippa Thorneycroft

It has taken hundreds of years to arrive, but once women took a foothold in the Church of England, change happened relatively quickly.

The first movement within the church came back in 1975, when the General Synod voted that there was "no fundamental objection" to the ordination of women to the priesthood.

However it took another 10 years for women to be allowed as deacons and a total of 17 years for the church to say that women should be ordained in the priesthood.

It wasn't until 1994 that the first women priests were ordained – and in that year 1,500 took up the role.

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The Rev Preb Pippa Thorneycroft was one of those first women to be ordained , at a ceremony at Lichfield Cathedral.

And she has seen the massive change in attitude move from people who indicated that they once would not have attended a service had they known it was a woman in charge, to the point where now, we shall soon have our first woman as an Anglican bishop.

Arrows

Having served in Albrighton and Wolverhampton and now looking after St Bartholomew's Church at Tong, in between times, the Rev Thorneycroft was also a chaplain to the Queen and survived all those early slings and arrows. She looks back at those times and says: "I always believed it would happen, that it was right.

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"Many years ago I met Bishop Victoria Matthews in Canada and she was so sane, so normal but obviously a woman in authority and I just said 'yes, this is right'.

"So I absolutely support where we are now."

It is anticipated that the first female bishop could take her seat next year – and speculation has already started over the candidates for the ground-breaking move.

The change sees the simple addition of a sentence to Canon 33, which reads: "A man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop."

The Bishop of Shrewsbury said: "The Church of England will benefit greatly from female leadership and there are plenty of able women ready and waiting to become bishops. This is good news for England as well as our Church."

The Very Reverend Dr Jane Hedges, 58, dean of Norwich, was immediately installed by bookmakers as the favourite to become the first woman bishop.

Ladbrokes has offered 3/1 for the former canon steward of Westminster Abbey and archdeacon of Westminster.

She leads the Venerable Rachel Treweek, archdeacon of Hackney (6/1), and the Very Reveren Dr June Osborne, dean of Salisbury Cathedral (8/1).

Other leading candidates include the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, dean of York Minster.

Along with gay marriage, the issue of women bishops has dominated religious debate in recent years.

The first women were ordained in the Church of England in 1994 and they now make up about a third of clergy. The plan to allow them to stand as bishops was derailed by just six votes cast by lay members in November 2012.

The final legislative requirements took place during a session chaired by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, on the first day of the Synod's meeting in London. With the Instrument of Enactment having been read to the Synod the motion was put without debate, with only a simple majority required for approval.

Following the item being passed the legislation was signed into law by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York before the whole Synod.

Following the vote Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: "Today we can begin to embrace a new way of being the church and moving forward together."

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