Posted by Christopher Johnson | Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 | Uncategorized | 32 Comments
The Church of England delays its final irrelevance for a few more years:
The Church of England’s governing body on Tuesday narrowly blocked a move to permit women to serve as bishops, leaving the church facing more years of contentious debate.
Following a day-long debate on Tuesday, opponents mustered enough support to deny the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members of the General Synod.
The defeat was a setback for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who retires at the end of December, and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby. Both had strongly endorsed a proposed compromise that they had hoped would end decades of debate.
Passage of legislation to allow women to serve as bishops must be approved by two-thirds majorities in the synod’s three houses: bishops, priests and laity. Synod members were voting on the latest compromise which calls for church leaders to “respect” the position of parishes that oppose female bishops – without saying exactly what “respect” means.
The vote was 132 in favor and 74 against. In separate votes, bishops voted 44-3 in favor with 2 abstentions, and clergy voted 148-45 in favor.
CBS Radio News’ Larry Miller reports Bishop of Norwich Graham James voted for women bishops.
“It feels at the moment incredibly disappointing ,” James said.
Church officials say it may take five years to go through the process of taking new legislation to a final vote.
There has been discussion here and there of Parliament stepping in and forcing female bishops on the C of E. I don’t know the legalities involved but if Parliament can do it and wants to, it might as well. The narrowness of this vote momentarily inconveniences the inevitable; the Church of England will one day have female bishops.
UPDATE: If this Telegraph story is accurate, Parliament fully intends to intervene.
The Church of England will face a battle in Parliament and the prospect of legal challenges if it fails to approve women bishops on Tuesday, MPs said on Monday.
Special legal privileges and even its position as the established Church could be called into question if the General Synod rejected the plan, they warned.
MPs, who must approve any Synod decision before it receives Royal Assent, warned that a failure to approve the proposal could undermine the Church of England’s position as the established Church. Chris Bryant, the Labour MP and a former Anglican priest, said the legislation would face a “rough ride” in Parliament if there were any further concessions to traditionalists. “If the legislation leans too far towards the traditionalist that won’t please the Commons and the legislation would have trouble,” he said.
“There are quite a few of us who think that the way this is leaning is entrenching forever a religious apartheid within the Church of England.”
He added that a rejection would “undoubtedly undermine” support for aspects of establishment, including bishops in the Lords and the role of Parliament approving Church laws.
Frank Field, a former Labour minister who sits on the parliamentary ecclesiastical committee, said that in the event of a no vote, he would table a motion to remove the Church’s special exemptions from equality laws.
“It would mean that they couldn’t continue to discriminate against women,” he said.