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Church of England will have women bishops - new Anglican head

posted 22 Nov 2012, 12:02 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 Nov 2012, 12:04 ]

The next Anglican leader says the Church of England will have women bishops while speaking at the launch of a foundation headed by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Nigeria.

 ABUJANIGERIA (NOVEMBER 22, 2012) (REUTERS) - The next archbishop of Canterbury is confident he will consecrate a female bishop, he said on Thursday (November 22), two days after the Church of England voted against allowing women to become bishops.

Bishops and clergy on Tuesday (November 20) in the General Synod, the Church legislature, comfortably backed the change but lay members were four votes short of a two-thirds majority.

Justin Welby, who will take over from Rowan Williams as the spiritual leader of the Anglican wing of world Christianity at the end of the year, was speaking at the launch of a programme to strengthen ties between Christians and Muslims, being run by former British prime minister Tony Blair's foundation. Blair was also present.

"The importance of educating the people about each other, making that happen at a young age and the people across the faith divide acting together is that you provide the ability to create the bulwark against that type of extremism and fanaticism," said Blair.

Speaking about Tuesday's vote, Welby said it was a 'grim' day for the Church of England, but added the he was certain the church would have women bishops.

"Women are going to be bishops, there is absolutely no question about that," said Welby during the visit to promote religious reconciliation.

"It was a pretty grim day for the whole church. There is a lot to be done but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop."

Women already serve as Anglican bishops in AustraliaNew ZealandCanada and theUnited States, but Anglican churches in many developing countries oppose any female clergy and are working together to shield themselves against such reforms.

The Church of England finds itself somewhere in the middle, struggling to reconcile the views of reformers and traditionalists. The measure cannot now be approved for at least five years.

Welby, an experienced conflict negotiator, drew the loudest applause on Tuesday when he urged members to compromise and vote for the measure, citing bloody conflicts in the Middle East and Africa as examples of what intractable differences can lead to.

Welby said he had visited Nigeria 75 times. Welby worked in the oil industry in the 1980s, but has also visited Nigeria as a cleric.

Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds this year in northern Nigeria in its fight to impose Islamic or Sharia law on the West African country, whose population of 160 million people is split evenly between Christians and Muslims.

Welby has experience of negotiating with militants in the southern oil-producing Niger Delta swamps and with Islamists in the north during his 34 years visiting Nigeria.

But he said the skills he learned in Nigeria that will be most useful in his new role were humour and patience, he added:

"Nigerians, they are….. they have got huge energy I suppose. They've got huge energy for confronting their problems. They have also got a great deal of quite remarkable patience and I have to say a very significant sense of humour."

The launch of the Faith Foundation programme was attended by local media, diplomats and religious figures including spiritual leader of Muslims in Nigeria the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammed Sa'ad Abubaker.