Church of England votes NO on women as bishops

The Church of England General Synod has voted No on the ordination of women as bishops.

Failed in House of Laity.

Voting results are: House of Bishops 44 for, 3 against 2 abstentions. House of Clergy 148 for, 45 against 0 abstentions. House of Laity 132 for, 74 against 0 abstentions

6 votes short in Laity.

BBC report

Episcopal News Service report

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  1. Derek Olsen

    So sad.

    The thing here that is most interesting to me and most worthy of study is the fact that it sailed through the bishops, was overwhelming in the clergy, and lost by 5 or so votes in the laity.

    It’s not even a matter of saying that the boys in pointed hats didn’t want girls amongst them—the vote says the opposite, actually.

    The Twitter feed for #synod was hugely in favor and most of the comments after the fact have been quite negative. If more of those voices had been voting, though, it would have come out differently.

  2. Peter Pearson

    Wow, imagine that. So now I wonder how the rank and file of the C of E will vote with their feet? Maybe it’s time for an Episcopal Church in England?

  3. Derek Olsen

    FWIW–and that’s not much right now–some of my women friends in the CofE are reminding one another and us that the issue of women bishops has already been decided. What was defeated today was not *if* but *how*.

  4. Kurt

    Disappointing, yes. But there will be women bishops in the CofE in the not-too-distant future!

    Kurt Hill

    Brooklyn, NY

  5. John B. Chilton

    Derek, I have a guess what you mean, but could you expand on your comment.

  6. John-Julian,OJN

    Wait, people!

    This was NOT a vote against women bishops. It was a vote against the House of Bishops who insisted on a compromising amendment which would virtually made women bishops second-class or not-quite-bishops because they would be required (not “asked”, not “allowed”, not “permitted”) to provide alternate bishops to minister to those who didn’t like women in miters.

    It was England’s effort to repeat the failed efforts they made for flying bishops when women were ordained priest.

    MANY who support women bishops whole-heartedly voted against this motion——NOT against women bishops.

    So, the bishops queered the whole thing by their amendment——and it’ll now be five years before anything further can be done—thanks to the pointed heads.

  7. John B. Chilton

    Is there any hint that it was strange bed fellows that defeated the measure in the lay order? That is, traditionalist plus those voted nay b/c women bishops wouldn’t be full bishops?

    Otherwise the laity are saying no to the unchurched who see the CoE as out of touch.

  8. Michael Cudney


    It seems a distinction without a difference: the simple fact is the COE is maintaining a status quo and will not move ahead, for at least five years. Whether it was the bishops, the clergy or laity who brought it down, the end result is the same.

    It is genuinely sad that after all this time the Synod failed to move ahead. Will there be further attrition in the pews because of this?

  9. Rod Gillis

    Good grief, what a farce!

    Glad to see Mother Corp. is keeping Christianity safe for patriarchal hocus pocus.

  10. Derek Olsen


    General Synod has already made the decision that women will be bishops. What has been dragging on for a while is the particular legislative process through which it will be accomplished. When the decision was made, the powers-that-be stated that there would always be a space for in the CofE for those who could not accept women bishops on theological grounds (specifically the ConsEvos who feel it violates biblical rules on “headship” and the ACs who deny that women can be ordained at all). *Whether* that promise should have been made and on what conditions is a completely different question–the fact is that it was. The trick, then, was to craft legislation in such a way that the anti-consecration minorities would accept it and yet did not suggest that female bishops were somehow second-class bishops in ways that pissed off progressives. One of the things that we heard again and again on the Synod floor speeches today was that the current text just told the theological minorities “trust us–we’ll work it out later.”

    So–there will be women bishops in the CofE; however, Synod did not pass this legislation as the way to accomplish it and to honor the promises that they had already made.

    At least–that’s how I understand it and am open to clarification from those better informed!

  11. Chris Hansen

    I listened to most of the debate in the Church of England’s General

    Synod today, and only turned off when the vote had been announced. The

    measure passed in the Houses of Bishops and Clergy, and was lost in the

    House of Laity. As I had listened to the debate the number of antis from

    the Laity who spoke made me very apprehensive about the fate of the measure.

    The matter cannot be brought up in this Synod, so there will be at least

    5 years interval in which the matter will again be chewed over by the

    Evangelicals, the Anglo-Catholics, and everyone else. The provisions for

    those who refuse to admit that women can be bishops, or who reject the

    “headship” of women over men, will be examined yet again. I am looking

    into my crystal ball and will venture some predictions about what should

    happen, and what may happen, or even what will happen.

    Bishops will now have a problem on their hands. Their vote was 44 in

    favour, 3 against, and 2 abstentions. Obviously the majority of diocesan

    bishops were in favour. They have female clergy whom they value and who

    are inspirational and fast becoming the majority of licensed clergy (if

    the current trends of ordinands hold up). The career paths for their

    female clergy are now stopped at Archdeacon and Dean level. They are

    allowed to go no higher. And their bishops, who have no responsibility

    for the measure’s failure, must manage their expections. This has

    already become quite urgent. My prediction is that many more women

    clergy will move into positions of authority in dioceses such as

    archidiaconal positions and Deans of Cathedrals. There may also be some

    stealth moving of female clergy into positions equal to Area Bishops in

    some way or another.

    The bishops will also be lumbered with explaining to a skeptical public

    why the Church of England matters in English society. Although they were

    in favour, they will have to defend synodical government in general,

    this vote in particular, and the fact that, in every other sphere of

    life, women (and lesbians and gay men, for that matter) are rapidly

    gaining positions of authority and influence while the Church still

    avoids consecrating women as Bishops. This will be a difficult task, and

    I don’t envy them.

    Clergy, including Archdeacons, Deans, and parochial clergy will have a

    similar, if more low-key, role in managing the expectations of female

    clergy and trying to convince skeptical parishioners (and others) that

    the Church of England actually values women.

    The lay members of Synod, where the vote was lost by only 6 votes, will

    have an even harder row to hoe. They will have to stand before their

    Diocesan Synods, 42 of which voted for women bishops, and defend their

    individual votes. And, more seriously, there will be an election for a

    new Synod in 2015. Those who voted against the will of their Diocesan

    and Deanery Synods must be held to account, if they stand again.

    As those who are involved in churchy affairs and politics will be

    wearily aware, church elections are often perfunctory affairs, sometimes

    not contested and with woeful turnouts by the electorate. Those who wish

    to consecrate women bishops before the coming of the Coqcigrues must

    start planning today for the elections coming in three years.

    The electorate for General Synod is comprised of the members of Deanery

    Synods. The vote is a transferable vote method, where the elector

    numbers the candidates from 1 to whichever number they fancy out of the

    candidates. A packet of election statements is sent to each elector

    along with the ballot. There are usually hustings, or election meetings,

    during which electors will have the chance to question candidates from

    their Diocese.

    The first step is to identify the current members of the House of Laity

    and how they voted. This will have to be publicised to the entire

    Diocese relentlessly for the next three years. Debates should be held in

    Diocesan and Deanery Synods and their members of General Synod need to

    be held to account.

    The second step is to identify and encourage candidates for General

    Synod to stand for office. Those who campaign for women bishops need to

    identify candidates who are theologically literate, broadly supportive

    of women in the episcopate, and articulate enough to speak and

    contribute to debates.

    The third step is to encourage, nay, even prod the electorate to vote

    when the vote comes along. This step must start now, as elections to

    Deanery Synods will happen in the spring of next year and the term is

    three years. Speakers must ask to attend Deanery Synods and talk about

    the voting records of current representatives on General Synod and make

    sure that people are aware of the great importance the next General

    Synod election will have in ensuring that the next time women bishops

    come up for a vote, the measure will be passed.

    The other difficulty is one that all must share. The provisions for

    those who object to woman bishops pleased no one. The Archbishops

    proposed one which was rejected. The current proposed provision was

    also, of course, rejected tonight. The so called “one-clause measure”,

    which would just have enabled women to be bishops, was also rejected. A

    lot of effort and thought has gone into these proposals and all that

    work has now been rejected. Justin Welby and John Sentamu (until he

    retires) will have to think hard about what to do. Depending upon the

    composition of the new General Synod, it is conceivable that a

    one-clause measure might pass if enough of those in favour are returned

    to General Synod. I think that some may even decide that the “Third

    Province” method was better than all this. That would be unfortunate, as

    it would be difficult for deaneries, who are the front line of the

    Church, to operate in concert if some of their constituent parishes

    belong to a separate province.

    We shouldn’t forget prayer and reflection. This goes for everyone

    involved. I am convinced of the rightness of the cause for ordination of

    women bishops and I would love to see this happen within the next 5 or 6

    years. Thus we will have to pray hard for justice, fortitude,

    forbearance, and wisdom to cut this Gordian knot.

  12. Rod Gillis

    @ John-Julian “MANY who support women bishops whole-heartedly voted against this motion——NOT against women bishops.”

    I hear what you are saying, but the reality is this. The priority has been given to “theological minorities”. The problem is that “theological” minorities are not real social minorities.They are men. What we are talking about here are those who are in a solid majority in organised religion circles. Let’s face it, there are three camps here. (1) Anglo-Catholics who are locked into some medieval “substance and accidents” hocus pocus when it comes to women. (2) Those who believe that an ancient near eastern mythology from two thousand years ago is the definitive word regarding gender roles and (3) politicians who are “worried” about in house fall out if gender equality goes forward.

    If a major semi-arm of government i.e. the “established ” church an’t stand for gender equality for fear of “upsetting” the lunatic fringe, what hope is there for the kingdom of God in the C of E?

    For god’s sake, in a world where religious crazies victimize women and girls simply for being women and girls, the church ought to make a clear stand in favor of human rights.

  13. Kevin Montgomery

    I’m afraid this got brought down by an unholy (though probably unintentional) alliance between those who oppose women’s ordination and those who shortsightedly make the perfect the enemy of the good.

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