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  1. ITV Report

Row over Oxford church decision to ban women priests

St Barnabas Church in Oxford Photo:

There has been criticism of a decision to allow only male priests to apply for a job vacancy at a church in Oxford.

The advertisement for a new vicar of St Barnabas and St Paul, with St Thomas the Martyr specifically asks for a male priest, and that has sparked allegations of misogyny and discrimination against women.

However, the diocese concerned says that the church had always had male priests and wanted to continue to do so.

After the decision to allow female ordination was made in the 1990s, provision was also made for people who 'were unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests' because of their religious beliefs - to stay within the church by them being allowed to chose male clergy.

In further defence of its position the Diocese of Oxford said that St Barnabas was in the minority of churches to request male-only clergy - and that of its 46 churches only five called for male heads. A spokesperson said that since women were first allowed to be ordained by the Church of England twenty-five years ago, in 1994, a huge number of women had been ordained across the diocese as a whole.

Celebration in May 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the ordination of first C of E female priests Credit: John Stillwell/PA Archive/PA Images

“The Church of England is fully committed to the ministry of women and men at every level of its ordained leadership. St Barnabas has always had a male parish priest and wishes to continue that tradition.

''While many of those worshipping in the parish are very supportive of women in ministry, and St Barnabas has female licensed lay ministers and a Deacon who is a woman, a proportion of their congregation have said that they cannot remain within that church on theological grounds, unless the incumbent is a man.

''The PCC (Parochial Church Council made up of clergy, churchwardens and representatives of the congregation) asked the Bishop of Oxford and Patrons to respect those views in the interests of church unity and agree only to appoint a man to this vacant incumbency. They are permitted to do this under current legislation, and the Bishop and Patrons are bound by that same legislation to respect their view.

''Everyone is committed to the appointment of a Vicar for St Barnabas with St Thomas who will be an excellent parish priest for that parish, and be an asset to their local community.”

– Spokesperson for the Diocese of Oxford