Greater equality for female office holders in the Church of England is under threat as 17 bishops signed a letter warning that creating women bishops would be deeply divisive for the church.
The letter, published in today's Church of England Newspaper, aims to undermine a debate in the General Synod on 17 July - the church's governing body - on whether to ordain female bishops.
Signatories to the letter include, the bishops of Chester, Exeter and Chichester.
A senior Church of England source told the Times the letter would have enormous impact and called it "hugely disappointing".
"I am spitting tacks about this letter," the source said. "What is so disingenuous about it is that we effectively decided to have women bishops when we voted for women priests."