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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Church must rethink women bishops issue, says vicar daughter of Lord Bragg

The vicar daughter of Lord Bragg says the Church of England must think again about its ruling against allowing women bishops.

Marie-Elsa Bragg photo
The Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg

The Rev Marie-Elsa Bragg, who is originally from Wigton, made the comments as the Archbishops’ Council, one of the church’s senior bodies, called for negotiations on the controversial issue to restart next year.

Speculation is also growing that Parliament could take the issue out of the church’s hands if the row rumbles on for much longer.

The church was thrown into crisis last week after a motion on women bishops was defeated at the General Synod.

It was backed by the bishops, and clergy, but did not get the required two-thirds majority from the laity to be approved by the synod.

Under Church law, it cannot be brought back to the table until 2015.

“I thought it was very disappointing and it has certainly provoked a storm,” said Ms Bragg, who is assistant curate at St James, West Hampstead & St Mary with All Souls Kilburn, and duty chaplain at Westminister Abbey.

“It is something that we will have to look at again.”

The motion had provided for parishes that did not want to have a female bishop.

The woman would then be responsible for finding a male bishop to cover her duties.

Ms Bragg felt this would have been a good compromise. It was not, however, enough for some members of the laity, although lay synod members from the Diocese of Carlisle are among those who support women bishops.

“I’m disappointed not enough trust has been built up with them for them to believe a female bishop respect their wishes,” Ms Bragg added.

“It is quite sad that we can’t act as a model for compromise.”

She has since been contacted by women and men, who have told her the cause is worth fighting for.

After the vote last week, Robert Freeman, the Bishop of Penrith, said the decision would be damaging for the church. James Newcome, the Bishop of Carlisle and John Semtamu, the Archbishop of York and chancellor of the Univerisity of Cumbria, have also come out in support of women bishops.

It has also since emerged that two Anglo Catholic-leaning Cumbrian parishes – St Aidan’s in Carlisle and St John’s, Workington – do not support Bishop James or allow him to preach there because of his support of women in the church.

Writing in The Cumberland News today, Dr Chris Angus, of Lanercost, near Brampton, who is a member of the House of Laity, says: “It is a matter of profound sorrow to me that we were not able to approve the legislation and send it on its way for Parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent.

“This setback matters tremendously to me and to the majority like me.”

As the debate continued this week, the archbishop’s council said: “In its discussions, the council decided that a process to admit women to the episcopate needed to be restarted at the next meeting of the General Synod in July 2013.”

Meanwhile, William Fittall, secretary general to the General Synod, has said in a leaked letter that the matter could be taken out of the Church’s hands by politicians if it is not dealt with by 2015.

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