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(RNS) The Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) has decided to permit women to serve on local church councils but has maintained its rule that they cannot be ordained as bishops.

By a narrow vote during its recent General Assembly, the denomination changed its policy on congregational councils by deleting the word male from its previous statement saying members of the Church and Pastor’s Council shall be loyal male members of the church.

Just prior to the meeting, which concluded July 30, more than 62 percent of the denomination’s bishops voted not to consider changing church policyprohibiting women from being ordained as bishops.

Charisma News Service reported sharp disagreement during assembly debate.

This has nothing to do with women not being smart enough or good enough or qualified enough, said Britt Peavy, senior pastor of West Ward Church of God in Douglas, Ga. The issue is, did God know what he was talking about? And whether we like it or don’t like it … if our rules, our standard, is biblical text, then we have to be faithful to biblical text even in a contemporary society that sees it as bigoted or old-fashioned.

The debate mirrors a similar fight within the Church of England, where women have been ordained as priests since 1994, but traditionalists have threatened to leave if women are ordained as bishops, which could happen as early as 2014.

Bishop T. Scot Carter, spokesman for the denomination, said women are ordained as pastors in the denomination and are appointed to its national and international boards but cannot serve on the church’s bishops-only Executive Council.

We reaffirm the value and the historical contribution of women in the life of the Church of God, reads a resolution passed during the assembly. The statement noted that the role of women in ministry has been discolored by the remarks of some speakers during the meeting.

Cheryl Bridges Johns, professor of discipleship and Christian formation at the Church of God’s Pentecostal Theological Seminary, expressed disappointmentthere was not more support for women bishops. She said female students at the seminary seek more affirmation from the church.

I think many of them feel betrayed ”not only by the actions of the General Assembly but by some of the language of the assembly that was quite derogatory toward women as a whole, said Johns, a leader of the group Free Our Church of God Women to Serve.

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