CAMPAIGNERS pressing for the appointment of female bishops will meet in the region at the weekend.

The first northern conference of the Women and the Church group will be in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, on Saturday.

Speaking about the conference, campaigner the Reverend Jean Mayland said: "It is high time that women priests, with all their gifts, were welcomed wholeheartedly by the leaders of the Church of England.

"Too often women have been welcomed grudgingly, with the expectation that women's ordination may only be a passing phase."

The Right Reverend John Packer, the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, will invite delegates to consider the implications of the recent Rochester Report, called Women in Episcopal Ministry.

Conference organiser the Reverend Mark Bennet said: "For those at the conference, there will be no doubt that the Church of England should proceed to appointing women as bishops as soon as possible.

"The debate is now moving on to the kind of church we will have when that is done.

"The exciting prospect is to imagine a church beyond the sense of tokenism which will inevitably emerge when there are only one or two women bishops in post; a time when women are valued in leadership because of their different gifts, styles and expertise, rather than simply because they are women."