OXFORD could become the first Church of England diocese in England to have a woman bishop after the Anglican General Synod voted to change canon law.

The vote in London rubber-stamped a decision made by the General Synod in July and comes two years after the move was defeated by six votes in November 2012.

Oxford is one of nine vacant posts across England that could be filled by a woman bishop after Rt Revd John Pritchard retired on October 31.

New bishops are officially appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, who takes advice from the Crown Appointments Commission.

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The Rector of Dorchester Abbey, Canon Sue Booys , will serve on the commission and was one of the General Synod members who voted in favour of women bishops.

She said: “I have been a priest for 19 years and it has been a long journey. It is personal when it is all of the people of your gender who were being excluded who will now be included. I hope more women in Oxfordshire will get involved in the Church because there is a new feeling for women now.

“One’s gender is now recognised as being included in the Church.

Oxford Mail:

  • The Rev Canon Sue Booys                   

“Our diocese has a long record of welcoming women into the ministry and men and women will work together across the diocese.”

Canon Booys said she was confident a woman would one day become Bishop of Oxford and it could be as soon as next year.

She said: “There is no reason why we should not have one but no particular reason why we should.

“I just pray we get the right person for the job.”

Corpus Christi College chaplain Dr Judith Maltby was one of the first women in Oxfordshire to be ordained as a Church of England priest in 1994.

She said: “Jesus told a parable about a servant who buried the talents and that is what the Church of England has been doing.

“There are some very gifted women priests in the Church and many of those women have the gifts and the ability to serve as bishops.

“I feel very happy for other women. It has been a long, hard slog during which a lot of camaraderie and esprit de corps has been built up.”

Dr Maltby said she saw no reason why a woman should not fill the vacant bishop’s seat in the Diocese of Oxford. She said: “I deeply respect Bishop John but I do not agree with him on that [the diocese being too large for a first-time bishop]. I think there are women in Oxfordshire who could take on that role.”

Oxford Mail:

  • The Rev Dr Judith Maltby

Acting Bishop of Oxford Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, the Bishop of Dorchester, will also serve on the Crown Appointments Commission and also voted in favour of women bishops.

He said: “We have had women priests for the last 20 years, they are doing a fantastic job in Oxfordshire and the same is true across the country.

“It is great that they can now be bishops as well as parish priests and archdeacons.

Oxford Mail:

  • Acting Bishop of Oxford Rt Rev Colin Fletcher

“I think we will stay united, we have taken a long time over this and I think we now have a robust structure that will allow the support to those who will not agree.

“We want everybody on board and hopefully now we have achieved this we will be able to put that into practice in the Oxford diocese.”

Here is how the process developed up to this week’s decision.

  • 1978: Women are not permitted to hold any leadership roles in the church. A motion to remove the barriers to women being ordained as priests fails at the General Synod. 
  • 1985: The Synod votes to approve women deacons. 
  • 1987: The first female deacons are ordained. 
  • 1992: The Synod votes to approve women priests. 
  • 1994: 1,500 female deacons are ordained as priests. 
  • 2005: A motion to remove the legal obstacles to women becoming bishops is approved by the Synod. 
  • 2012: Legislation to allow women to become bishops is defeated by six votes in the Synod. 
  • 2014: The synod votes to approve legislation which will allow women to become bishops.


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