Rt Rev John Hind, the Bishop of Chichester, stoutly opposed to ordination of women, has drawn the ire of other clerics, who are complaining to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Hind has told his diocesan synod that when he appoints a new junior bishop, they will not be permitted to ordain women.
He has been bombarded with letters of protest against his stance, and faces a growing revolt. Behind closed doors, influential figures in the diocese are holding clandestine meetings to consider what action to take. Several of his priests have also already written to the Archbishop of Canterbury, charging that the bishop's attitude discriminates against women.
AdvertisementOne senior cleric in the diocese has accused the bishop of trying to establish a refuge for anti-women priests. He claimed that the decision to block the appointment of a new bishop who would ordain women was an attempt to create a haven for traditionalists opposed to female priests.
"It's a very unhappy position for those who support women priests, and it's hurtful for those who have been campaigning for their ordination," he said. "There is no other diocese in the country where this attitude prevails. It's the last bastion of something that is beyond the pale.
"I think that the bishop must be very lonely right now. He is trying to stick his finger in the dyke, but for one diocese to try to go it alone is completely crazy."
Hundreds of Anglo-Catholic priests left the Church of England when it agreed to make women priests in 1992, but there is still a large rump of traditionalists opposed to the historic reform.
The Bishop of Chichester and his two junior bishops refuse to ordain women, and have upheld the diocese's reputation as a refuge for those opposed to female clergy.
Many priests and worshippers believed that the resignation of one of the two junior bishops - the Rt Rev Lindsay Urwin, the Bishop of Horsham - presents an opportunity for a shift in policy.
Yet despite promising to conduct a consultation on who should succeed Bishop Urwin, Bishop Hind told a recent meeting of key officials that he would maintain the status quo by appointing someone who will not ordain women.
Kevin Carey, who is a General Synod member for the Chichester diocese, said that people had been baffled by such a provocative action.
"I don't see the point of having an advisory group if you've already decided what is going to happen," he said. "It makes a nonsense of the process. I deeply regret that we'll be the only diocese in the Church that doesn't have a bishop who ordains women."
Mr Carey said that there was a significant number of people in Chichester who were in favour of having female clergy.
Out of its 393 parishes, only 65 have stated that they would not accept a woman as their incumbent.
"Women will find it difficult to feel that they are equally valued following the bishop's comments," said Mr Carey. "Now he has taken such a position there is no way that he'll back down. The only person who could resolve this would be the archbishop."
Among 308 paid clergy in the Chichester diocese, only 20 are women. Many of these were ordained by the Rt Rev David Wilcox, a retired bishop who lives in the area. He holds the rank of assistant bishop and has been given permission to ordain women.
In a letter to the Church Times, Bishop Hind defended his decision by saying that he will continue to commission an assistant bishop to ordain women.
He added: "I would not commission a suffragan [junior] bishop to ordain women to the priesthood."
A spokesman for the bishop said that he is refusing to make any further comments on the issue, Telegraph reports.