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General Synod Rejects Draft Legislation on Women Bishops

Picture Courtesy of Keith Blundy

Wednesday 21st November 2012

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted to reject the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops. Speaking to BBC's Today programme, the Archbishop of York John Sentamu said the decision was "very disappointing".

Under the requirements of the Synod the legislation required a two–thirds majority in each of the three voting houses for final draft approval. Whilst more than two thirds voted for the legislation in both the House of Bishops (44-03) and the House of Clergy (148-45), the vote in favour of the legislation in the House of Laity was less than two-thirds (132-74). The vote in the House of Laity fell short of approval by 4 votes.

In total 324 members of the General Synod voted to approve the legislation and 122 voted to reject it.

The consequence of the “no” vote of terminating any further consideration of the draft legislation means that it will not be possible to introduce draft legislation in the same terms until a new General Synod comes into being in 2015, unless the ‘Group of Six’ (the Archbishops, the Prolocutors and the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity) give permission and report to the Synod why they have done so.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, interviewed on BBC’s Today Programme, said:

"It’s very disappointing because we have been working at this for a very long time." Chairing the debate he had been unsure the Measure would get the necessary two-thirds vote in the House of Laity, because when the legislation was set in motion in 2008 the House of Laity did not give it that level of support.  However, "What was rejected yesterday was not women bishops, what was rejected was the legislation. Some people felt that it was not good enough."

The Archbishop explained the purpose of the two- thirds majority rule was to enable the church to attend to minority voices within it.  "I am one of those who defend anyone who votes against something, because we live in a country where people are allowed a freedom of conscience. The two-thirds majority, for me, always applies to matters of the doctrine of the Church of England and it would be wrong to change those two-thirds."

The Archbishop said that whilst this meant a regrettable delay, the aims of the lost Measure would be achieved.  "There will be women bishops in my lifetime - simply because the principle has already been accepted by the General Synod. It has been accepted in all the dioceses."

Dr Sentamu noted that there had been a new element to the conversation in Synod. "For the first time I’ve actually heard traditional Catholics, Conservative Evangelicals saying,  ‘whatever happens with this Measure -  if it goes through we will work with it.  If it doesn’t, we will still continue to work to make sure that we produce good legislation.’ So I want to take them at their word. They said it publicly that they will work in order to make it actually come about."

Though  ‘very disappointing’ this outcome was far short of striking a mortal blow to the Church of England:

"This morning people have been saying the Church has committed suicide, the Church is dead. Well dead people don’t converse.   We’ve been conversing. We’ve not committed suicide at all – we are very much living. And this morning General Synod we will be debating two important issues - the Living Wage as well as Youth Unemployment. That’s not a dead Church.  In the parishes our life is strong – we are very much alive. I hope that I’ll be back someday to tell you about the process we are putting in motion for making sure women become bishops,  and for those that are opposed - that they can remain in the Church of England."

To listen to the Archbishop on BBC's Today programme

To read more about General Synod Rejects Draft Legislation on Women Bishops



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