Britain might soon have its first female Anglican bishop, serving the 38,000-member Scottish Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Alison Peden, aged 57, is one of three candidates for the post of bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. The election is scheduled for Jan. 16.
Observers say that if Peden is elected it is likely to increase pressure on the neighboring Church of England to allow the appointment of women bishops.
"This news is a real boost as it comes at a time when the Church of England is in the process of preparing its own legislation for women bishops," Christina Rees, chairperson of WATCH (Women and the Church) and a campaigner for female bishops, was quoted as saying by The Times newspaper.
Peden, the rector of Holy Trinity Church in Stirling and canon of St. Ninian's Cathedral in Perth, is facing two male rivals for the post of bishop in the Scottish diocese.
They are the Rev. John Applegate, an academic at Manchester University, and the Rev. Gregor Duncan, rector of St. Ninian's Church, Pollokshields, and dean of the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway.
The candidates were chosen by clergy and lay church members. Under church rules they are not allowed to give media interviews before the election.
Peden is the first woman to be shortlisted in Britain as an Anglican bishop. The General Synod of the Scottish Episcopal Church voted in 2003 to allow women bishops.
The Scottish election comes a year after the small Lutheran Church in Great Britain consecrated its first woman bishop, the Rev. Jana Jeruma-Grinberga.
WATCH's Rees said she believed that legislation allowing women bishops in the Church of England would probably be presented to its General Synod in July 2010, and that final approval would be given in 2012.
"My great hope in 2010 is that we will finally see good, robust and fair legislation for women bishops coming forward," she told Ecumenical News International.