Women cannot hope to become bishops until 2015 at the earliest, the MP who represents the Church of England in the House of Commons has said.
Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said that even if the Church of England decided not to wait another five years to vote on giving women priests the right to reach the highest levels of the clergy, it could take until the end of the current general synod before the changes were made.
He said the House of Bishops was meeting next week to look at ways of introducing new legislation that would enable women to become bishops without the need to wait another five years until the synod – the church’s ruling council – could vote again specifically on the issue.
Sir Tony warned it would be impossible to increase congregation numbers unless women could become bishops, adding the current situation prevented new Archbishop Justin Welby from concentrating on expanding the church.
He said: “I would hope that this issue can be resolved by the conclusion of this synod’s period, which is in 2015.
“I hope that we can crack on with fresh legislation being presented to the synod in July and the matter can eventually be resolved by the finish of this synod in 2015.”
He added: “I think the message which has gone out very clearly from parliament, and I think from the country as a whole, to the church, is that this is not an issue that can be parked.
“It is an issue that has to be resolved as speedily as possible.
“I think everyone in the church needs to understand that as far as parliament and the wider public is concerned, this is increasingly being seen as an issue where the church is discriminating against women.
“This is fundamentally wrong and fundamentally bad for the image and work of the Church of England.”