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Church of England rejects women bishops

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And this in a society where supposedly we espouse equality of opportunity for all people.

Guest post by Reverend Biddi Kings.

This week saw the General Synod reject legislation which would have enabled women to be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.

The General Synod of the Church of England comprises three groups or ‘houses’: the bishops, the clergy and the laity – made up of those who are not ordained.

In order to be approved, a measure needs to receive a two-thirds majority in favour from each of the houses.

The final approval stage of the discussion about whether or not women should be ordained as bishops was on the evening of November 20.

This measure was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Bishops – 44 for, 3 against with 2 abstentions - and a large majority in the House of Clergy – 148 for with 45 against.

It failed by a handful of votes in the House of Laity: 132 in favour, 74 against. A majority of six.

As an ordained woman priest I share the distress, dismay and disappointment of the overwhelming majority who feel this legislation is long overdue in a society and an organisation where supposedly we espouse equality of opportunity for all people.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that members of the Church of England, of all people, might listen to the teaching of Saint Paul who, although not noted for his feminism, preached: ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’, to quote Galatians chapter 3 verse 28.

Most of us felt that we had made considerable compromises in the wording of the measure in order to accommodate the spiritual and pastoral needs of those who still find themselves unable to accept women’s ministry.

Clearly that was not enough for the minority who were bent on sabotaging the measure.

Out of the 44 diocese (Church of England administrative areas) 42 have recently indicated through their own synods that they support the ordination of women as bishops.

So we can only assume that we have inadvertently allowed traditionalists to subvert membership of the General Synod House of Laity, much as Militant Tendency did with the Labour Party at branch level in the 1980s and 90s.

Sadly, it is unlikely that the Synod will consider any similar measure again for another 3-5 years.

However, an online petition is already doing the rounds, calling for sanctions against 26 Church of England bishops having the right to sit in the House of Lords unless they include women in their numbers.

It seems that it isn’t over yet.

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