Archbishop urges vote for women bishops


Justin Welby, the bishop of Durham, urged the Church of England’s General Synod to vote in favour of legislation allowing women to become bishops as his appointment as the next archbishop of Canterbury was confirmed by the prime minister’s office at Number 10 Downing Street yesterday.

Speaking at his inaugural press conference as successor to Rowan Williams, the 56-year-old said he was “overwhelmed and surprised” to be offered the job of leader of the Church of England and figurehead of the Anglican communion.

While “utterly optimistic” about the church’s capacity for growth, he acknowledged that it faced challenges on the divisive issues.

The synod, the church’s parliament, is to vote this month on whether to allow women to become bishops, and campaigners for the change say they fear they may lose.

“I will be voting in favour, and join my voice to many others in urging the synod to go forward with this change,” said Dr Welby, in an endorsement of their position.

Admitting “deep differences” on sexuality, Dr Welby, an evangelical, said he would not tolerate prejudice. But he said he supported fellow bishops in their opposition to plans to legalise gay marriage.

“It is absolutely right for the state to define the rights and status of people cohabiting in different forms of relationships, including civil partnerships. We must have no truck with any form of homophobia,” he said.

Paying tribute to his predecessor as a man of “infectious spirituality” who would one day be recognised “as one of the greatest archbishops of Canterbury”, he said: “On the basis that you should only follow failures, this is a great mistake.” – (Guardian service)