Sentamu: Church not dead after vote
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 – ‘Belfast Telegraph’
- A Grieving Archbishop of Canterbury?
“Well, dead people don’t converse. We have been conversing, we have not committed suicide at all, we are very much living. This morning in the General Synod we are debating two important issues – the living wage and youth unemployment. That’s not a dead Church.”
Dr Sentamu said he was confident there would be women bishops in his lifetime, suggesting that revised legislation would receive the necessary support to be passed.
“The principle has already been accepted by the General Synod, it has already been accepted by all the dioceses,” he said. “So what we need to do is find the legislation – 99.9% of the legislation is there, it’s this little business of provision for those who are opposed.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams will make a statement later after an emergency meeting of the Church of England bishops following the narrow defeat.
If six people had changed their vote from no to yes in the House of Laity the legislation would have received the necessary two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod.
The result is a blow to Dr Williams and his successor, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, who staked their authority on a yes vote. Speaking afterwards, Dr Williams, who leaves his post at the end of this year after a decade in office, spoke of his “deep personal sadness” at the result.
There can be little doubt that ++Rowan, Archbishop of Canterbury, is full of regrets that his impassioned speech in support of Women in the Episcopate (and that of his putative successor, +Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham) did not secure the necessary votes in the House of Laity to ensure the passage of the (amended) Draft Measure for the Ordination of Women Bishops at the General Synod of the Church of England on Tuesday.
There is bound to be speculation as to whether, if the House of Bishops had left the original Draft Measure – without their subsequent amendments – to be put to the meeting, it might have just scraped through the necessary 2/3 majority in each of the 3 Houses. The interesting fact is that, at voting time, the House of bishops actually approved the measure by more than the 2/3 majority – as did the House of Clergy.
One wonders whether there had been too much emphasis by both Bishops and Clergy on the provision of what some of them saw as a necessary accommodation to the minority of extreme conservatives – from both the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical opponents to the Measure – and too little emphasis on the real needs of co-equal ministry of Women as Bishops in the Church?
As it is, there will be lots of conjecture in a special meeting of some of the Male Bishops – very soon – to examine the effects of this negative decision on the Mission of the Church. Whatever General Synod’s future action on this matter, there is little doubt that the Church’s Faithful will be left wondering what went wrong with their manifest desire for women clergy in the Church to be allowed to go forward into the episcopate.
The only consolation here might be that, the next time around (in 2015), the whole Church may be much less inclined to accommodate the prejudices of the minority, thereby opening up the way for unhindered episcopal authority for both Women and Men. Until that time, sadly, sexism will be seen to prevail in the Church of England.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand