As archbishop of York, John Habgood, who has died aged 91, pushed through a compromise position on the ordination of women in 1992 that many in the Church of England felt to be a betrayal. Although he was intellectually and theologically in favour of women priests – telling the General Synod to remember that God was neither male nor female – he nonetheless led the bench of bishops and the General Synod to support his idea that “two integrities” should be allowed within the church: one that could accept women priests and another that could not. It was an awkward squaring of the circle that left women to pay the price. Over the years Habgood had consistently voted in favour of female priests, but in the final analysis it felt as if his heart was not with his mind. At the crucial General Synod decision on the matter he voted again in favour, but then immediately took action to appoint a group of provincial episcopal visitors – the famous “flying bishops” – who were assigned to minister to those who refused to accept the ordination of female priests. In doing so he miscalculated the reaction of parliament, which was to… Read full this story
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