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Clergyman accuses East Lancashire bishops of 'fearing women'
A FORMER East Lancashire vicar has warned that the Blackburn Diocese could become a ‘ghetto’ for people in the church who ‘fear women’.
Ian Robins, a retired vicar from Whalley, was speaking after the Diocese narrowly passed a vote in favour of women bishops, by a majority of 70 to 67.
Head of the diocese, Bishop of Blackburn Nicholas Reade, and Bishop of Burnley John Goddard both voted against the move.
Neither bishop ordains women, although Bishop of Lancaster Geoff Pearson, does.
Mr Robins said: “The two bishops in East Lancashire refuse to ordain women priests. In our diocese they have to go to Lancaster.
“Both bishops are perfectly civil to these women priests, but they just have this hang up, whether that is doctrinal, psychological, or both.
“There is a big divide which is quite illogical to many of us.
“Their view is that it is hitched to scripture, but I believe underneath it is just male chauvinism.
“It should not be dressed up as women asking for equal rights. It is about acknowledging people’s gifts.
“A lot of women priests have real-life experience of other professions, teachers, doctors, midwives and they have so much to give.
"Some of those who don’t agree have never experienced other professions.”
Mr Robins said there was an ‘endemic male instinct that fears the female’.
He said: “There has got to be a way forward past that kind of attitude.
“Because of the strength of feeling in this Diocese, there is a danger it could become a ghetto for clergy who are opposed to women priests.
“And that would be a shame to see women priests lost to the area who have so much to give.
“My other fear is that this could create a split branch of the Church of England where two or three bishops serve those congregations who don’t want to have women ministers or accept the authority of those who have ordained them.”
Bishop Goddard said the decision was ‘not signed and sealed’ but that if it was eventually passed he would ‘consider his position’.
He said: “The narrowness showed the uncertainty of the church. As it stands there is no proper provision for those who object. Whatever happens must be done with consensus. Two or three votes is not a consensus.
“If it is passed I would have to consider my position.
"My fear is the church would split and face a long period of disharmony.”
The Blackburn Diocese marginal majority vote in favour of women bishops will go towards a national decision next summer.
Bishop Reade was not available for comment.