Vicar in line to become first female bishop

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A COUNTY Durham vicar could be voted in as England’s first woman bishop today.

The Anglican General Synod is expected to approve legislation allowing women to be nominated and chosen for the senior posts “in minutes” when it meets in London.

The move comes 20 years after the first women priests were ordained, and it could see the church’s first female bishop appointed next year.

Among the candidates is Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, 40, vicar of Belmont and Pittington.

The historian, a prominent campaigner for women bishops, was a university chaplain and research fellow at University College Durham and was interim principal of Durham University’s Ustinov College.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners for wider female participation in the Church of England.

Hilary Cotton, chairwoman of Women and the Church (Watch), said she would like to see women ultimately make up a third of bishops, about 40 posts, “in order to make a difference”.

She said: “Until we get to around a third, it doesn’t change the culture, or it is much harder to change it.

“It is not just about having women wearing purple. It is about changing the culture of the church to be more equal.

“It is exciting, but I hope that in a few years, it will be more normal for women to be appointed bishops.”

The first diocese vacancy to come up after the canon law is changed will be Southwell and Nottingham now the Rt Rev Paul Butler has been appointed as Bishop of Durham.

It will be followed by Gloucester, Oxford and Newcastle.

The first women were ordained in 1994 in the Church of England, and they now make up about a third of clergy.

The General Synod overwhelmingly backed legislation introducing the first women bishops in the Church of England in July, and today’s vote will rubber-stamp that move.