There was disappointment today at the Church of England General Synod’s vote against the appointment of women bishops.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, expressed his “deep personal sadness” after the narrow vote against, with supporters vowing to continue their campaign. The measure was passed by the House of Bishops and House of Clergy but rejected by the House of Laity.
Women and the Church called the decision “a devastating blow” and a “missed opportunity”, remarking on the fact 74% of the Synod had voted for change.
A statement from the group read:
“Today’s vote is a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of this country. This vote is a missed opportunity for a whole generation to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England.”
While Christine Allsopp, Archdeacon of Northampton and one of the first women to be ordained as a priest said:
“It’s a very sad day for the Church of England. Ordinary members of the Church of England will not understand what has happened here today. They have voted overwhelmingly in favour of women bishops. There’s a real feeling of anger and frustration.”
Writing in The Guardian, Andrew Brown called the debate a “long and boring suicide note” and “a ghastly mix of tedium and bad faith”, concluding:
Although the debate was notionally about the arrangements for women bishops – the principle having long since been conceded – the real objection came from conservative evangelicals who had not conceded the principle and never will. They do not, quite simply, believe that women should exercise teaching authority over men.
Again and again, opponents claimed they longed to see women bishops accepted by the whole church. Each time this happened, I had to pinch myself to remember that they were the bit of the church that didn’t and don’t accept women as bishops. If they want to see women bishops accepted by the whole church, all they need do is accept them.
This was the reality. Everyone in the chamber understood it very well. But no one would admit to it. The synod was bound within invisible pews, sitting in circles, gazing only at itself.
And in the Telegraph, Damian Thompson warned the Church of England had “voted for civil war”:
I’m sorry if this seems melodramatic, but the anger of the majority of bishops and clergy who supported this move ensures that the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, faces the prospect of an Anglican civil war.
I won’t pretend that the decision makes much sense to me: a situation in which women can be bishops in most parts of the Anglican Communion but not its spiritual home is weird enough, but when you consider that the C of E allows women to be deacons, priests but not bishops… it’s an ecclesial mess of the most peculiar variety.
We will have further reaction to the vote on Left Foot Forward tomorrow.