A FEMALE Bishop of Durham could be “very much a reality before too long,” the outgoing incumbent announced at the weekend.
Bishop Justin Welby, whose appointment as Archbishop of Canterbury was confirmed last week, said his immediate successor was unlikely to be a woman.
But he added that he could envisage the appointment of a woman Bishop of Durham in the near future.
“I see every possibility that there will be a woman Bishop of Durham appointed at some stage in the non-too distant future,” he said.
The issue of women bishops has split the Church, so Bishop Welby’s comments in Sunderland on Saturday will anger traditionalists.
Individual dioceses have already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the plan, but it still needs to be approved at a special sitting of the Church’s General Synod in London this month.
Failure to reach an agreement after nearly a decade of bitter wrangling would be an ignominious end to the tenure of Dr Rowan Williams as Bishop Welby’s predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Dr Williams also advocated the permanent return of the priceless Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East, on a visit to Durham in 2008, saying it would be “wonderful” if they were placed here permanently.
And Bishop Welby said: “The Gospels came from the North East and so they rightfully belong in the North East, but that is out of my control.”
The Gospels are currently in the British Library in London but are to be loaned to Durham next summer.
Bishop Welby spent Saturday morning – his first public appearance in the region since his appointment as Archbishop was announced – helping at the launch of a food parcel initiative at Sunderland Minster and yesterday he took the remembrance service at St Gabriel’s Church in Sunderland (see Pages 8&9).
He said the existence of food collection and distribution schemes in the UK worried and concerned him, and suggested that any money made by gambling should be donated to such projects.
Referring to the flurry of bets on him to become Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Welby added: “It’s a very strange feeling when you find yourself having odds quoted on you at a bookie.
“Generally speaking I am not a horse, I think that’s a really important point to get across. I just thought if people have made money out of this, I think the Church should benefit, so give it to your local church.”
Shoppers in Sunderland are being asked to shop twice, once for themselves and secondly for others in the city who may be in need.
A suggested way of donating is to give the ‘extra’ item from ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘three for two’ offers in supermarkets.
Bishop Welby said it was a worry that food distribution was needed in the UK, but he celebrated and rejoiced that people wanted to give “practical help”.