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Church of England stalls on female bishops

LONDON (AP) — The Church of England on Monday put off a final decision on allowing women to serve as bishops because of continuing disagreements between contending factions.

The action by the church’s General Synod to adjourn debate means that the issue will not come up again until November.

The decision to adjourn “gives us at least the chance of lowering the temperature and explaining ourselves to each other,” said church leader Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Church of England ordained its first women as priests in 1994. Since then, women have moved into senior positions including cathedral deans and archdeacons, but have been blocked from becoming bishops.

The church has spent years seeking a formula which would honor the concerns of traditionalists while allowing the consecration of women to go ahead. And while church members opposed to women as bishops are in the minority, their opinions carry weight because church leaders wish to avoid a split.

The legislation to endorse female bishops had been supported by 42 of the 44 dioceses of the Church of England before bishops offered an amendment that many senior female priests objected to because they said it would mark women as second-class people.

The critics note that the proposal would allow a traditionalist parish not only to be supervised by a male bishop, but it could also insist the male bishop had never ordained a female priest or had been consecrated by a bishop who ordained women. In effect, said critics of the compromise, it would mark women as a “taint” on the ministry of others.

“The plain fact is that the amendment has caused widespread dismay among many of those who have supported the measure up till now, including a large number of the Church’s senior female clergy,” said Trevor Willmott, the bishop of Dover.

Monday’s action kicked the issue back to the House of Bishops to find a solution acceptable to both sides.

“There are worse things than unfinished business,” Willmott said.

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