SYDNEY (AFP) — Australia's Anglican Church said Friday women can be appointed bishops for the first time, drawing immediate criticism from conservatives.
Australia's top Anglican, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, called the decision "a significant day in the life" of the church.
He said the decision by the Anglican appellate tribunal allowed the consecration of women bishops in dioceses that have adopted 1992 canon law, which includes Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
"This means that whenever there are vacancies in dioceses that have adopted the 1992 canon and whose own diocesan law permits it, a woman can become a diocesan bishop," Aspinall said.
However, Sydney Archbishop Peter Jensen, a leading conservative whose Sydney diocese has not adopted the 1992 reforms, expressed disappointment with the decision.
"Those who are opposed to this development base their objection on conscientious grounds as a matter of biblical principle," he said.
"The innovation will inevitably create ongoing difficulties around the church for decades to come."
Australia's Anglican population of about four million has allowed women priests for a decade but has no female bishops.
Aspinall acknowledged some people would be uncomfortable with the ruling and said parishes in a diocese overseen by a female bishop may be able to arrange for a male bishop to minister their parish.
"There will be some in our family who will be unhappy with this ruling and it is now our urgent duty to offer care for those who retain a conscientious objection to women bishops," he said.
Aspinall said Australia's Anglican bishops had agreed not to consecrate any female bishops until April next year.
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