THE draft Measure for the consecration of women bishops failed
to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in all three Houses of
the General Synod, when the vote for final approval was taken after
a protracted debate on Tuesday, just after 6.15 p.m.
Although it was carried in the House of Bishops by 44 to 3, with
two abstentions, and in the Clergy by 148 to 45, with no
abstentions, it was lost in the House of Laity where it achieved
only 132 votes against 74, with no abstentions. Across all three
Houses, 72.6 per cent of Synod members voted in favour of the
legislation. Sixty-four per cent of the House of Laity voted in
This result was despite strong pleas from the Archbishop of
Canterbury, and his designated successor, the Bishop of Durham, the
Rt Revd Justin Welby, for waverers to abstain rather than vote
During the debate, Dr Williams said that he did not want the
issue of women bishops "to bind the extraordinary energy and
skills" of the Archbishop-designate. Bishop Welby is understood to
be taking stock and will want to listen to what the Archbishops of
Canterbury and York have to say.
The House of Bishops will meet first thing on Wednesday morning
"to consider a way forward", the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd
Stephen Cottrell, said afterwards.
After the vote, Dr Williams spoke of his "deep personal sadness"
at the vote. "Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular
business would be at another stage before I left, and of course it
is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the
case," he said. "I can only wish the Synod and the Archbishop all
good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, spoke of "an
urgent task to find a fresh way forward to which so many of those
who were opposed have pledged themselves."
Church House issued a statement shortly after the vote. It said:
"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."
Women and the Church (WATCH) said in a statement: "Today's vote
is a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of
this country. This vote is a missed opportunity for a whole
generation to see women and men sharing fully in the mission,
ministry, and leadership of the Church of England."
The Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod (GRAS) said that it was
"deeply disappointed that the General Synod has made a decision so
out of step with the Church of England as a whole". It said that it
would be pressing at every level for a single-clause Measure.
The chairman of Reform, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said: "It was as
close as we thought it would be. My overall conclusion is that it
is very good news for the Church of England. We have avoided what
could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness." He
said that Reform would be "completely available for discussion"
with the Archbishop-designate.
The Catholic Group in General Synod said: "We regret the Synod
was in put in the position whereby draft legislation failed at
final approval because it was unclear and unfair in its provision
for those who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of
women as bishops or priests."
It called on the House of Bishops to reconvene the talks started
in the summer between representatives of different groups, chaired
by Bishop Welby.
The Bishop of Chichester, and Master of the College of Guardians
of the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, Dr Martin Warner,
issued a statement on behalf of the Anglican Shrine. It recognised
"the pain and disappointment that this vote will bring to many,
Walsingham pilgrims included". It continued: "We pray for the
wisdom and humility to remain attentive to each other within the
Church of England as we seek to understand how the future will
A number of bishops issued statements immediately after the vote
expressing deep disappointment with the outcome. The Bishop of
Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, said that the result of the vote
"It is amazing to me that the decision to ordain women as
bishops that the Church of England agreed in principle several
years ago has now been undermined for the foreseeable future," he
said. "In a culture that celebrates democracy, it does seem strange
that a clear minority has managed to influence the debate and
elected representatives in such a way."
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill,
described the result as "very unwelcome" and called into question
"the process by which representatives are elected to General Synod
when they are not genuinely reflecting the view of the
The Bishop of Southwark has written to all clergy in his
diocese, expressing sadness at the result and offering to meet them
after the lunchtime eucharist on Thursday.
This is not the first time the Synod's voting system has
resulted in the failure of moves for which there was a majority in
favour, but not an adequate one. The Anglican-Methodist Unity
Scheme, a covenanting scheme with the Free Churches, and the first
attempt to pass legislation for women deacons, priests, and bishops
have all fallen under similar circumstances since the General Synod
was set up in 1970.
See this week's Church Times for further