A SPOKESMAN for the Prime Minister said this week that that the
Government would not intervene in the Church's business.
He said, however, that David Cameron shared the disappointment
of many at the vote on female bishops. The issue was a matter for
the Church to decide, and that Government wouldn't act to try to
force the issue through using equalities legislation.
None the less, Mr Cameron told MPs: "I'm very clear the time is
right for women bishops - it was right many years ago.
"They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the
programme. But you do have to respect the individual institutions
and the way they work, while giving them a sharp prod."
Senior bishops were called to a meeting with peers and the
Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, on
Wednesday, to discuss the implications of the vote.
Sir Tony, who acts as the Church's link with the Commons, said
that he felt "extremely saddened" by the vote, which he would find
almost impossible to explain to Parliament.
The meeting was attended by over 40 MPs and peers, and there was
an "overwhelming sense of frustration and of disappointment", Sir
Tony reported. "There was a real sense, too, that this must not be
allowed to rest here.
"There is a feeling that synod is now not a parliament but a
gathering of the tribes. The Church of England does not belong to
Forward in Faith and WATCH, it belongs to parishes."
Although there was no sense of holding bishops to account for
the Measure's failure, he said that General Synod, and the Church
as a whole, needed to get to grips with how it is perceived in the
wider world of Parliament and British society.
"The real risk the Church faces is of disinterest, that people
will now switch off and just see it as a sect. The Church will now
be taken far less seriously on issues like same-sex marriage, for
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Sir Tony said
that, as a result of the vote on female bishops, "the Church
of England no longer looks like a national Church; it simply looks
like a sect, like any other sect. If it wishes to be a national
Church that reflects the nation, it has to reflect the values of
Sir Tony said that the issue of women bishops could not "in
any way be parked for the next couple of years or so, while we
await another round of Synod elections. It must be understood that
this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
"I hope that it will be convenient for the House if I seek
to arrange a meeting in the near future for concerned Members,
together with the Bishop of Durham, the Archbishop-designate, to
explore how this matter can be resolved as speedily as
Sir Tony continued: "I suspect that there will also
be those in the Church of England who will wish to consider whether
the election process to the General Synod is sufficiently
representative, particularly of the laity of the Church of England,
as Tuesday's vote clearly did not reflect the overall and clear
consensus of dioceses across England in support of women
The Labour peer Lord Adonis tweeted after the women bishops
debate: "My instinct is that the Bishops should call a
'back-us-or-sack-us' synod next year, and make this a collective
test of their leadership."
The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said that the vote signalled that the
Church was being "held hostage by an unholy and unrepresentative
alliance of conservative Evangelicals and conservative
"This will add to clamour for disestablishment; there is even
talk of moves in Parliament to remove the Church's exemption from
the Equality Act."