The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in the United Kingdom are about to get a good bit bigger. No one knows exactly how much bigger, but there’s no question that the Church of England has done them a favor by telling its traditional Anglo-Catholics, “go ahead, leave–see if we care!” According to the London Telegraph:

The Church of England looked set for a damaging split last night after its ruling body agreed to press ahead with the introduction of women bishops without any compromise measures for opponents of the controversial move.

After six hour of emotional debate, one bishop broke down in tears saying he was ashamed of the church for ignoring the deeply felt wishes of traditionalists.

The Rt Rev Stephen Venner, the Suffragan Bishop of Dover, was comforted by other church leaders on the floor of the General Synod in York as its 468 members took a major step towards women becoming bishops, with just an unwritten statutory code of practice to cater for those who firmly believe the Bible teaches that bishops must be male, as Jesus and his apostles were.

Bishop Venner, said: “I have to say that for the first time in my life I am ashamed.

“We have talked for hours about wanting to give an honourable place for those who want to disagree and we have turned down almost every realistic opportunity for those who are opposed to flourish.”

Hundreds of traditionalists, including several bishops, may leave the church after an epic four-hour debate ended with proposals to create new “men only” dioceses or “super bishops” narrowly thrown out by members of the General Synod in York.

Back in 1992, liberals in the CofE promised traditionalists that those who objected to women priests would have their convictions respected. Many didn’t believe the assurances, or couldn’t countenance the break with Catholic tradition, and so converted to Rome or Constantinople. This time, I expect the losses will be significantly bigger, given that there is virtually no trust any more between liberals and traditionalists. In any case, this is just one more road marker on the way to the dissolution of the Anglican Communion.

UPDATE: Well, that didn’t take long:

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham, is to lead his fellow Anglo-Catholics from the Church of England into the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Herald will reveal this week.

Bishop Burnham, one of two “flying bishops” in the province of Canterbury, has made a statement asking Pope Benedict XVI and the English Catholic bishops for “magnanimous gestures” that will allow traditionalists to become Catholics en masse.

Bishop Burnham hopes that Rome will offer special arrangements whereby former Anglicans can stay worshipping in parishes under the guidance of a Catholic bishop. Most of these parishes already use the Roman liturgy, but there may be provision for Anglican prayers if churches request it.

Anglican priests who are already married will not be barred from ordination as priests, though Bishop Burnham would not be able to continue in episcopal orders, as he is married and there is an absolute bar on married bishops in the Roman and Orthodox Churches.

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