Inclusive Church: “The Tail has Wagged the Dog” at G.S.

Editorial – ‘Inclusive Church’

‘The Tail has Wagged the Dog’ –  by Trevor Donnelly
                            The women bishops vote has hit us all hard. I’d hoped to have a hangover from celebrating this morning, but sadly it’s a hangover from ‘drowning my sorrows.’
                            My teenage daughter can’t decide whether to give up on the C. of E. (and become a Quaker), or to ‘join the struggle’ and stand for Diocesan and General Synod! For the sake of the C. of E. I hope she stands for Synod, but for the good of her growth in faith I am conflicted..
                            Her dilemma illustrates where we are left as a church – none of us can afford to sit on the sidelines; if we want to be able to hold our head high and remain Anglicans we need to put some energy into the campaign for women bishops.
                            42 out of 44 Dioceses supported the measure, yet the House of Laity (who in theory represent these dioceses) voted against. This is not just a failure of Synod to be inclusive: it is a failure of Synodical process.
                             The headlines today are “Church in Crisis.” Those who voted ‘No’ will say a ‘Yes‘ vote would have produced similar headlines, but they are wrong. If you remember the headlines after Synod voted ‘Yes’ to women priests, the Sun proclaimed, “the Church says yes to Vicars in Knickers,” (OK, not the best example – but the tone of the story was positive!). The headlines for a ‘Yes’ would be a good news story with a reflection, ‘isn’t the church quaint to have taken so long?’
                             To the outside world we have made ourselves look ridiculous at best, and at worst like a bunch of misogynists hiding behind a few verses of Scripture to justify the kind of prejudice illegal in secular workplaces long ago.
                            The Synod vote has shown us that we can’t take progress for granted. Please, please, please ask your church to sign up to the Inclusive Church Statement, encourage others to subscribe to this newsletter, get involved in WATCH, in Modern Church, in any of the many bodies calling for greater inclusion in the church…
                            Don’t give up. The road has proved to be longer and more winding than many of us had anticipated, but if we keep travelling, we will get there in the end…
                             Trevor Donnelly
                             The Church of the Ascension, Blackheath

Inclusive Church responds to the General Synod Vote

Inclusive Church deeply regrets that General Synod did not approve the Measure that would have allowed women to become bishops in the Church of England.

We hope that church leaders will take urgent action to bring forward new legislation and to restore public confidence in the Church.

Dianna Gwilliams, Chair of Inclusive Church said:

“I’m personally disappointed that this legislation did not receive the necessary majority in the House of Laity of General Synod.  It is clear that the Houses of Clergy and Bishops, along with 42 out of 44 Diocesan Synods believed that the legislation was the best fit.

This debate is not about women.  It is about the nature of our church and her leadership.  I pray that as we continue to listen prayerfully to each other God will grant courage to all women and men who, together, are providing courageous leadership in our church.”

Channel 4 interviewed Dianna following the news of the vote – go here for this link

WATCH response to the decision:

The vote in General Synod is a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of this country. It 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.

There is overwhelming support for women bishops in both in the church and in the country at large. We have been discussing this issue for a generation and working on the details of this compromise legislation for over ten years. 42 out of 44 dioceses supported the draft Measure: 75% of all votes were cast in favour.

Almost 73% of General Synod members voted in favour of women bishops. Both the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy voted overwhelmingly in support, but the Measure narrowly fell in the House of Laity where it failed to reach the required 2/3 majority:  by 6 votes.

In the coming weeks, bishops will need to act promptly to offer pastoral support to women clergy and others who will feel devastated by this outcome.

The General Synod clearly needs to look again at how it represents the will of the people in the pews.

Our Christianity calls us to the future and not the past. WATCH will continue to work towards a future for the Church of England where the gifts and callings of women and men are equally recognised and valued.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH and trustee of Inclusive Church said,

“This is a tragic day for the Church of England after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise. Despite this disappointing setback, WATCH will continue to campaign for the full acceptance of women’s gifts of leadership in the Church’s life.”


These various reactions to the failure of the Church of England General Synod to affirm the Draft Measure for the Ordination of Women Bishops in that Church give some insight into how the news has been received by people who have longed for Women clergy to be allowed to proceed towards the role of Bishops in the Province of Canterbury.

The fact that the Church of England was one of the last Provinces to accept Women as Priests – in an extraordinary process entailing the employment of Male Bishops untainted by any contact with the ordination of women priests to minister to dissidents – did not bode especially well for this advancement of the cause for Women Bishops.

However, the presence of Women Bishops in other parts of the Church, including our own Province of New Zealand/Pacific Islands, North America and Australia, had already paved the way for the ‘Mother’ Church of England’s move forward on this important issue. We in Christchurch have a Woman Bishop – +Victoria Matthews, who has been a Bishop for 17 years – serving first,  in Canada & now, New Zealand. Bishop Victoria is a member of the Communion Faith and Order Commission.

It seems, however, that the willingness of the Church of England’s House of Bishops to enshrine a legal loop-hole for those who dissent against Women’s Ministry in the Church of England did not go far enough for a small minority of members of the House of Laity at General Synod, whose vote did not reach the required 2/3 majority (it failed by just 6 votes) to pass the legislation. The ‘Yes’ vote reached the required level in both Houses of Bishops & Clergy! But as the rules require each House to reach a 2/3 majority, the motion was lost.

This seeming gross imbalance between: the Mind of The Church, expressed most clearly by the affirmative votes of 42 out of 45 Diocesan Synods – and the ‘mind’ of a small minority of the Laity in General Synod – would seem to necessitate the substitution of a vastly different way of electing Lay people to the membership of General Synod. It was, for instance, indicated  by someone concerned, that there may have been as many as 3 members of General Synod from one conservative parish – elected through their local Deanery Synod, from whence the membership of G.S. is derived. In principle, this sounds unbalanced if not a travesty of justice, resulting in a serious non-representation of the more liberal Laity of the Church of England.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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