Newspapers in England are full of stories about whether the Church of England faces a possible constitutional crisis resulting from General Synod’s failure to pass legislation last week that would have permitted women to become bishops.
Ruth Gledhill, who has seen a memo written by William Fittall, secretary general of the General Synod, writes:
The Church of England is facing a “major constitutional crisis” as a result of the fiasco last week over women bishops, according to an internal document written for the archbishops by one of their most senior staff. The Established Church must take steps in July next year to consecrate women bishops and vote them through by 2015, otherwise it risks the matter being taken out of its hands by Parliament.
Gledhill’s story is behind a pay wall, but other publications have summarized it. The Huffington Post UK writes:
The Times reported that Fittall, the Church of England’s most senior “civil servant” whose advice is seldom ignored, wrote the memo within 72 hours of the vote last Tuesday which saw the legislation carried in the General Synod houses of bishops and clergy but fail by six votes to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority in the house of laity.
The decision has badly damaged the Church of England, Fittall wrote, describing a “sense of shock”.
“Within the Church the effect on morale – particularly but not exclusively on that of female clergy – is severe,” he said.
Fittall reportedly outlines a plan that would lead to simpler legislation, such as a clause to consecrate women bishops with no provision for opponents, being put to the General Synod when it meets at the University of York in July.
And, the results of how individual members of synod voted on the legislation are now available, which means that the question of whether proponents of women as bishops who wanted better legislation helped to sink this particular resolution can now be tested. It is worth noting that Elizabeth Paver, vice chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, voted against the measure.