Latest Reflection on the Failed Vote for Women Bishops

Sentamu: Church not dead after vote

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 – ‘Belfast Telegraph’

The Archbishop of York has insisted the Church of England had “not committed suicide” after moves to introduce women bishops were rejected in the General Synod.John Sentamu, the second most senior bishop in the Church, admitted it was “very disappointing” that the draft legislation failed to clear its final hurdle.It was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy in the General Synod, but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority amongst lay members. But Dr Sentamu insisted the Church was not “dead” and maintained that the principle of female bishops had been accepted.”This morning people have been saying ‘the Church has committed suicide, the Church is dead’,” he told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme.

“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.

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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

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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1 Response to Latest Reflection on the Failed Vote for Women Bishops

  1. I would urge you to read Andrew Brown of the Guardians latest comments on Suicide in CofE and his later comment – he seems to understand the Synodical proceedure and the systematic sin that pervades. I am dissapointed with Anglo Catholics who joined forces with the extreme Evangelicals as this scenario had been planned for years – fact not opinion. I hope this comment will be accepted and I am sending it to all good folk of influence. Do you have an idea of where I am coming from with this – I could liken it to a terrible political situation in the world where young children are brainwashed to do savage things with zeal and a seemingly clear conscience. The work of the very devil and I can have no union with this. This systematic sin will be able to block the power of The Holy Spirit on other important issues.

    ‘We mere mortals have a binding duty to root out the systemic evil that prevails in the Church of England at the moment. I prayerfully suggest that we take note of Andrew Brown’s comments in The Guardian and take the following action

    All disappointed parishes should call an emergency meeting of their PCC’s and Synod members to discuss the ‘No’ vote and to particularly question how women played a strong part in the opposition.

    We need to question whether it is holy for Anglo Catholic’s to have joined forces with women who have been educated to believe that women should not speak or act for Christ in church. Is it holy for them to have aligned with those whom they normally mock?

    We need to ask the question. How long have the fundamentalist Evangelicals been plotting this course? I can tell you the answer to this but God wishes to enlighten you Him/Herself – then and only then will you find the answers to combat the problem that has left holy Archbishops and Bishops weeping and comforting their women ministers.

    There is no time to waste in terms of the Gospel imperative – read today’s Gospel for the Feast of the Presentation. We have more important work to do than fuss and fight at Synods. We are not feminists and do not wish to argue from a feminist perspective. We are human beings called to a sacrificial servant-hood. We rejoice in this daily, come what may.

    The Gospel of Thomas contains this phrase from Jesus’ lips “If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not bring it forth, what you do not have within you will kill you.” We do not have transparency from the top-down. Work from the bottom up for Christ’s sake’.

    Happy Feast of The Presentation

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