Church of England live blog women as bishops debate

The Guardian's Paul Owen is live blogging the debate and vote on whether or not the Church of England will ordain women to the episcopate and you can listen to the livestream from the Synod here or follow on Twitter #synod

Summary Here is a summary of this morning’s key events.

• The Church of England has begun debating whether or not to allow women to become bishops – its most important decision for 20 years.

• Those for and against the measure have spoken in a morning of mostly polite and respectful debate. Justin Welby, who will take over from Rowan Williams as Archishop of Canterbury in the new year, said the compromise measure before them – under which women would become bishops but could delegate authority to a male bishop if their parish requested it – was “as good as we can get”. He urged the General Synod to vote for the motion. Earlier, Williams had said he wanted the world to look at the Church today and say: “That looks like Jesus Christ.”

• Other spoke against the measure. Canon Rebecca Swyer of Chichester said she felt the church did not have the authority to make this decision. Rod Thomas of Exeter said the compromise would still mean recognising the authority of female bishops – something he said was not accepted in scripture. Meanwhile Rosie Harper of Oxford said a no vote would be seen as “an act of a dying church”.

• The debate continues this afternoon and a vote is due between 5 and 6pm.

Read more here and here.

Archbishop-designate Justin Welby spoke in favor of the motion as did the current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Here is Williams sermon at the opening of Synod.

Williams comments from live blog:

Williams says there is a good Anglican tradition of acting on reasonable probabilities.

This is what we've come up with after an intensely detailed process.

There is no compromise over the equality of male and female bishops, he says.

The grounds for dissent are so varied it is not a good idea to spell out how opponents will be accommodated, he says.

What is needed is "the small but strong hook on which to hang the fuller discussion".

He mentions the message to wider society.

If people think this is against God's will, this question does not come into it, he says.

A no vote would not do anything positive for our mission, Williams says.

And there remains the question of how much time and energy we want to spend on this in the next decade, and how much we want the new archbishop to spend on it. Williams wants the church to "liberate" itself from this issue.


Welby's comments from the live blog:
Justin Welby, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, speaks next.

It is time to finish the job and vote for this measure, he says.

The church is above all those who are drawn into being a new people by the work of Christ, he says. We are reconciled to God and one another not by our choice but by his.

For this testimony to be convincing, we must demonstrate it in lived reality, Welby says.

The approach before us today is "as good as we can get", he says. Our will and intention are far more important than the rules.

I am personally deeply committed ... to ensuring as far as I am able that what we promise today and later in the code of conduct is carried out faithfully in spirit as well as in letter.

Respecting and loving one another is a foundation stone for our mission, he says.

We cannot get trapped into thinking this is a zero-sum decision. That is not a theology of grace, he says.

Christina Rees (leader in the women's ordination movement WATCH) of St Albans says

the motion is not a compromise - it represents "who we are".

It's good because it does the main thing they wanted to do - open the episcopate to women.

If you don't believe we have the authority to decide on matters like this, I have to ask: why did you stand for synod?

She gives what I think should be called the Parable of Indiana Jones. Dr Jones comes out of a mountain to a terrifying chasm. He has to go over it. He takes a step and steps into the void. But there is an invisible bridge there. "He had to take that step in faith."

Comments (5)

"A no vote would be seen as 'an act of a dying church'."

That is a good way to put it, to say the least.

And the vote was "no!" Unbelievable. Odd that it passed soundly in Bishops and Clergy but failed in laity? So very clearly not done in by bishops trying to hold onto power.

I don't understand how when 44 synods voted for women and only 2 voted against - how the lay delegates to synod could vote no.

Now CofE won't have to deal with either those damned uppity women or those damned presumptuous gays. What a sad day for a church we Americans call "Mother."
"course we have to deal with South Carolina.

Lan Green

Maybe Rowan and company failed to lobby the lay delegates. Scaring people with the idea that the world would come to an end if the thing were not voted for was not persuasive. The result reminds me of an incumbent winning reelection by a bare margin. The traditionalists won but not by enough. The new Archbishop of Canterbury will be able to wage a better campaign.


Gary Paul Gilbert

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