Compromise over women bishops in the Church of England rejected

No allowance at all for those who follow the Bible on the matter. Further shrinking of an already drastically shrunken church to be expected. Average Sunday attendance is less than a million in a country of 60 million. It's said that more people in Britain go to Mosque on Friday than go to the CofE on Sunday. Women bishops will find themselves preaching to largely empty pews

The Archbishop of Canterbury made a humiliating apology to the Church of England yesterday for the latest fiasco over women bishops.

Dr Rowan Williams spoke of ‘penitence’ as the bishops asked the Church’s parliament, the General Synod, for another three months to make up their minds over how to draw up a new law about the place of women.

It would allow women priests to be promoted for the first time to the leadership ranks of the bishops. It has already taken the CofE 12 years of agonising to get to the brink of consecrating its first woman bishop.

But yesterday the Synod voted for another delay after Dr Williams admitted that, together with his fellow bishops, he had badly misjudged an attempt at a compromise.

Supporters of women bishops were so angry that they were poised to vote down the new Church law.

The Archbishop said: ‘It is quite clear that the reaction cannot be ignored. When there is a reaction of real hurt and offence in the Church, Christians and Christian pastors in particular, cannot afford to ignore it.

'If other bishops feel as I do, they will need to examine themselves and feel appropriate penitence.

'An adjournment gives us at least the chance of lowering the temperature and explaining ourselves to each other.

‘If other bishops feel as I do they will need to examine themselves and feel appropriate penitence that they did not recognise just how difficult that was going to be.'

The Synod will gather again to try to agree a law on women bishops in November.

Dr Williams and his colleagues now have until September to draw up a compromise to save the consciences of traditionalists who will not accept the leadership of women bishops, while ensuring the women bishops who are expected to be appointed from 2014 have the same status as their male colleagues.

Yesterday’s climbdown came as Dr Williams and his colleagues faced an open warning from a senior politician that further delay or mishandling of the women bishops issue will have serious political consequences for the Church of England.

A ‘train crash’ would threaten the Church’s power to keep seats for bishops in a reformed House of Lords, Tory MP Sir Tony Baldry told the Synod. Under Lords reform proposals currently before Parliament, the CofE would see its 26 bishops in the Upper House reduced to 12.

Sir Tony, who as Second Church Estates Commissioner is the CofE’s link with the Government, said: ‘I am your only voice in the House of Commons who will be arguing for the bishops.’

‘The Deputy Prime Minister has already made it clear he is indifferent to the matter, the Honourable Member for Rhondda (Labour MP Chris Bryant) has already made it clear that he intends to introduce an amendment for the removal of bishops from the Second Chamber.

‘If you have a train crash this afternoon all I am saying is that my task of maintaining bishops in a mainly elected second chamber is going to be infinitely more difficult if not impossible.’

Synod members voted 288 in favour of a delay, 144 against and 15 abstained.

The compromise on women bishops that has now been withdrawn was produced by Dr Williams and his colleagues in May.

It would have put into law the rights of traditionalist parishes to reject a woman bishop and insist on oversight by a male bishop who was himself untainted by ever having ordained a woman priest or accepted the authority of a woman bishop.

Supporters of women said they could not support this because it would turn women into second class bishops.

A leading tradionalist at the Synod, conservative evangelical the Reverend Rod Thomas, said: ‘The House of Bishops has a huge amount of work to do. Unless it comes up with clear space for us to have a permanent space in the Church it will fail - that has to be done.’


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