MPs push case for women bishops

The new General Synod
Image caption The General Synod will decide whether to allow women to become bishops

A small group of MPs has called on the government to intervene to prevent the Church of England blocking plans to let women be bishops on a "technicality".

Labour ex-minister Frank Field wants to end the Church's exemption from equality laws on gender discrimination.

He fears this loophole could mean the measure gets overwhelming support in the dioceses but is not passed by the General Synod due to the technicality.

Mr Field's Early Day Motion was signed by six MPs from all three main parties.

They were Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes, Labour former Home Secretary David Blunkett, Diana Johnson, Labour ex-minister Stephen Timms, Natascha Engel, and veteran Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley.

In the motion, Mr Field said the General Synod expected to debate the final approval stage in July 2012.

The motion "encourages the House of Bishops to commend the measure as currently drafted; and calls upon Her Majesty's government to remove any exemptions pertaining to gender under existing equality legislation, in the event that the measure has overwhelming support in the dioceses but fails through a technicality to receive final approval in General Synod".

The issue of allowing women to become bishops has long been a divisive one in the Church of England.

Earlier this month three Anglican bishops were ordained as Roman Catholic priests because of their unhappiness with the ordination of women in their own church.

More are expected to follow suit in the coming months.

The three bishops opposed the introduction of women bishops and did not believe enough was being done for traditionalists to avoid coming under the jurisdiction of women.

The Vatican has said it will allow the new Catholic bishops to maintain a distinct religious identity.

The newly established section of the Catholic Church is called the Ordinariate.

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