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Has vote on women as bishops precipitated a constitutional crisis?

Has vote on women as bishops precipitated a constitutional crisis?

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.

The Telegraph is also on the story. As is The Guardian.

Meanwhile Simon Sarmiento recommends an article from the blog Law and Religion UK to his readers at Thinking Anglicans.

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.


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John B. Chilton

For the record: According to The Guardian if there were opponents to the creation second class bishops who voted against the measure they were not pivotal to the outcome.

“In spite of fears that some advocates of women bishops had contributed

to its failure out of a belief that it made too many concessions to

their opponents, the records showed the vote was comprehensively

blocked by a powerful combination of conservative evangelicals and

traditionalist Anglo-Catholics.”


See my comment on the (previous) “Failure of the ‘common good'” thread: Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans, in reviewing the votes of (specific) Laity, does NOT believe that the Measure failed due to pro-WB votes.

Yes, real women are really against ordaining women as bishops (and they’re really wrong, sez I!)

JC Fisher


Ann, who exactly are the powers that be, and how did they end up with the authority to set the bar? I’ve noticed that some of those powers have been complaining about the vote in very strong terms themselves.

Bill Dilworth

Elizabeth Kaeton

I suspect the women who voted against this resolution may be fairly evenly divided between those who oppose women in the episcopacy and women who didn’t want to live with even “a little bit of discrimination”.

We really won’t know until these women are asked.

Ann Fontaine

The powers that be set the high bar — they can set it for majority, or 2/3 or by houses or by whole Synod — see the Covenant debate.

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