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Consecrating female bishops in the Church of England

More reactions to the 2012-NOV Synod vote
denying consecration of women to the Episcopate.
2013-JUL: Synod move to restart process.

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This is a continuation from the previous essay

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2012-NOV-10: Responses to the Synod vote (Cont'd):

  • Together 4ward, another Traditionalist group said:

    "We are reflecting on and praying about the outcome of general synod, and will make a fuller statement in due course. ... We are, however, pleased that synod has chosen not to pass the Women Bishops Measure in its current form, which we believe would not have allowed the Church to go forward together." 1

  • Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Sir Tony Baldry is the Second Church Estates Commissioner and is responsible for answering questions from fellow MPs that involve the Church of England. He questioned whether the process by which members were elected to the House of Laity was "sufficiently representative." He said:

    "What has happened as a consequence of the decision by general synod is the Church of England no longer looks like a national church, it simply looks like a sect like any other sect. If the Church of England wants to be a national church, then it has to reflect the values of the nation. ... It is impossible for me to explain to parliamentary colleagues how a measure that has had the support of 42 out of the 44 dioceses failed to pass in general synod." 2

  • Labour MP Diana Johnson said that it is vital that the Church of England:

    "... is led by the very best, not just those who happen to be male. There should be no stained-glass ceiling for women in our church. The Church of England now stands to be left behind by the society it seeks to serve, looking outdated, irrelevant, and frankly eccentric by this decision. ... A broad church is being held to ransom by a few narrow minds."2

  • Conservative MP Elanor Laing said:

    "When the decision-making body of the established church deliberately sets itself against the general principles of the society which it represents then its position as the established church must be called into question."

The BBC article that contained some of the above comments received 1.941 comments by its readers over the next three days! 1 The nine postings most highly rated by readers of the article were all critical of the Synod vote:

  • JREyre: "Well done Church of England. You have just guaranteed your irrelevance in the 21st century a little more."

  • Telanian: "Perfectly understandable decision; the Bible is very clear that it is inappropriate for a woman to have authority over a man. Of course, the Bible is also clear that slavery is fine, gays are evil, and that a raped woman should be forced to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). It is for these reasons (and others) that I am no longer a Christian, and I am glad to be rid of it!

  • IgnoranceSmasher: "BREAKING NEWS: Church is out of step with modern life, cows say moo, more at 10."

  • NoisySilentMajority: "Says all you need to know about the ‘modern’ Christian church. Backward, regressive thinking. No wonder people are rejecting religion in their droves. There is no connection with reality. Glad I’m an atheist."

  • ShoXx: "Showing religion is still living in the middle ages."

  • Stemann: "Not sure why I bother to criticize religion, they're making a fine job of it themselves."

  • Corona: "Good news for secularists and another example of how antiquated the Church of England is. It is an absolute farce that we still have a state religion and 26 men are allowed to sit in the second chamber of our government [the House of Lords] by virtue of 'God'. We need disestablishment, we need equality for everyone, and we need it yesterday!"

  • Resistance: "Religion: the fool's tool for sexism, racism, homophobia, and ignorance."

  • BillHaverchuck, responding to an earlier comment that one can't just twist the Bible to suit your needs, wrote: "Yes you can. That is why we no longer stone people to death for committing adultery." 1

The Economist magazine commented:

  • "There was immediate talk of a church "committing suicide."

  • "... 42 of the church’s 44 dioceses are in favour, as are three-quarters of the general public which matters to an established church."

  • "What has been rejected is a fudged compromise between liberals on the one hand and Anglo-Catholic traditionalists & conservative evangelicals on the other.

    Under it, women could have been consecrated as bishops, but those unable to accept them would have been able to request a male stand-in. Many in the pro-women-bishops camp found this humiliating, whereas their opponents felt the proposed wording, calling for their wishes to be “respected”, failed to provide a cast-iron guarantee that a woman [bishop] would not be imposed upon them. The majority nonetheless believed that, after many years of bitter wrangling, this was the best arrangement they were likely to get. 4

The House of Bishops held an emergency meeting the next day to discuss the fallout from the vote.

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The path forward:

With such a strong majority of Bishops, clergy and laity in favor of the legislation, the Synod will probably find it difficult to handle the massive disappointment within the Church. They will also have to withstand brutal criticism by the public and media. Many critics will probably call for the disestablishment of the Church of England as the official Church.

Hopefully, the Synod will consider relaxing the stringent requirements for passage of future legislation. Some might consider it unrealistic to require a two thirds majority in all three Houses which are composed of individuals with such different opinions. Perhaps a 60% majority could be considered sufficient, or even a plain majority. Alternately, a simply majority by all three Houses plus a 60% majority by at least two Houses might be adopted.

There is a special mechanism by which a second vote might be taken on the same legislation by a subsequent Synod. 2 Synods are held every six months. Alternately, revisions could be made to the 2012 legislation and a new vote taken. If the revisions were minor, the new wording would not have to be reviewed by the individual dioceses; it could be voted on directly by the next or subsequent Synod.

If and when the consecration of women as bishops is eventually implemented, the relationship between the Methodists and Anglicans in England will probably become closer. However, an additional strain would appear in the Church of England's relationship with much of the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion the and Roman Catholic church. To the Roman Catholic Church, even the ordination of women as deacons is forbidden. Female Catholic priests and bishops are inconceivable. The role of women in the Catholic Church is a hot-button item. Debate and even dialogue on these topics by clergy and academics in that Church are discouraged and sometimes suppressed.

After the Church of England first ordained women as priests in 1992, 720 priests found the situation so intolerable that they felt compelled to leave the denomination. About 400 priests joined the Roman Catholic Church even though many, if not most, were married. The exodus opened up hundreds of posts for female Anglican priests to fill.

There is no firm information about how many clergy will leave if and when women are allowed to be consecrated as bishops. Estimates range from a very few to 1,000. Allowing female bishops would mean that some male priests would be under the authority of a woman. Some male conservative clergy might find this so unacceptable that they might abandon the church in droves. On the other hand, to continue with the present sexist policies are driving the laity -- particularly older teens and young adults -- from the denomination in droves.

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2013-JUL: The General Synod of the Church of England met for the first time since 2012-NOV, when the proposal to allow the consecration of female priests as bishop was vetoed by the House of the Laity. The Synod reaffirmed its support for female bishops in principle. Delegates called for the introduction of new draft legislation to approve the consecration of female bishops. It is expected to be voted upon by the Synod in 2013-NOV, with the goal of final approval in 2015-JUL or DEC, and the consecration of the first female bishops at a later date. 3

The article in the Anglican Journal only received four comments. The most biting was by reader Frank Runyon:

"By the time the Church of England stumbles into the 19th century its pews will have long since emptied and moved to the churchyard."

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Women bishops: Church of England general synod votes against," BBC News UK, 2012-NOV-20, at:
  2. "Women bishops vote: Church of England 'resembles sect'," BBC News UK, 2012-NOV-22, at:
  3. "C of E to vote on women bishops again," Anglican Journal, 2013-JUL-10, at:
  4. "Thou shalt not: Women are rebuffed from the episcopate, for now," The Economist, 2012-NOV-24, at:
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Copyright 2012 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2014-JUL-18
Author: Bruce A. Robinson
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