Women bishops proposal at Synod

The Church of England's national assembly is to be asked to give its backing to a new set of proposals introducing women bishops.

General Synod members meeting in London will be asked to give first approval to legislation including a new NHS-style ombudsman, or independent reviewer, to rule on disputes over arrangements once female bishops are in place.

Women bishops would be introduced with a house of bishops ''declaration'' setting out guidance for parishes where congregations reject female ministry.

An independent reviewer, or ombudsman appointed by the archbishops and with the backing of lay and clergy representatives in the General Synod, would be given power to investigate where complaints were made about arrangements.

The move comes amid growing optimism about a ''hopeful phase'' which could see legislation introducing women bishops given approval ahead of schedule by next year.

A year ago, the plans collapsed dramatically at the General Synod causing bitter recriminations.

Mediation and conflict management experts held sessions in York with General Synod members earlier this year in an attempt to resolve differences over the issue.

The assembly will also debate how to attract more worshippers into the Church of England and church schools during the three-day meeting.

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