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Britain-WomenBishops 1stLd-Writethru 07-08

Split on women bishops

The Church of England’s ruling body has voted its support for women to become bishops without giving traditionalist supporters of male-only priesthood the concessions they had sought.

One bishop broke down in tears at the meeting of senior British church leaders Monday in York, northern England, as he described his distress at the church’s lack of willingness to accommodate traditionalists who have threatened to leave if they felt they were not adequately protected.

"I feel ashamed," said the Right Rev. Stephen Venner, Bishop of Dover, who is in favor of women bishops. "We have talked for hours about wanting to give an honorable place to those who disagree. We have been given opportunities for both views to flourish. We have turned down every, almost realistic opportunity for those who are opposed, to flourish."

Both sides conceded that tradition of male-only bishops would be changed, and the lengthy debate centered on what accommodation would be given to dissenters. This was not billed as a final decision; church legislation to implement the change is to be debated next year.

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More than a dozen other Anglican churches around the world have authorized women to serve as bishops.

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