Following an emergency meeting of the House of Bishops this morning, the Archbishop of Canterbury called on General Synod members to “attend to one another” and “give to one another the care that we need.”
Following last night’s vote against women bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams this morning said General Synod must prioritise caring for those left feeling “profoundly vulnerable, unwanted and unsure” by the result.
Referring to the impassioned debate at Church House in London yesterday, Dr Williams said it was important “that we hold one another to account for the promises made of a willingness to undertake and engage urgently in further conversation” about the question of women bishops.
Dr Williams said the nine-hour debate, chaired by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu, contained both “realism and unrealism”.
There was realism, he said, in Synod’s recognition of “the urgent demand for close, properly mediated conversation” about how to move the issue on.
But, he added: “The idea that there is a readily available formula just around the corner is, in my view, an illusion. There is no simple, God-given – dare I say – solution to a problem which brings people’s deepest convictions into conflict in the way in which they have come into conflict in this Synod and previously.”
The Archbishop said polarisation was the “greatest risk of all” facing both the Synod and the “internal life” of the Church.
Yesterday’s vote “did nothing to make polarisation in our Church less likely”, said the Archbishop, adding that such a division of views and identities was in danger of becoming “a default setting”.
However, these internal questions “were nothing compared” with work now needed externally, Archbishop Rowan noted.
“We have, to put it bluntly, a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
The next Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted that women will eventually be ordained as bishops despite the change being voted down last night.
Justin Welby said the General Synod had “overwhelmingly” backed the idea, although it did not receive the two-thirds majority needed among lay members on Tuesday….
“The Church has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the principle. It is a question of finding a way that there is a real consensus that this is the right way forward.
“That is going to take some time, some care, and some prudence.”
Asked whether he was determined to push the issue, Welby, who had earlier tweeted that yesterday was a “very grim day”, said: “I’m going to listen to all the other bishops and we will talk together and decide together.”
For years female clergy have been told to shut up and comport themselves nicely so as not to embarrass the boys. By and large, they have struggled to do this, but the effort has fuelled much repressed anger and, as unacceptable as the English find it to express such genuine feelings, I am not sure they can be contained for another 12 years. Last night in Dean’s Yard, a lay person told me forcefully that this was a radicalising Suez moment.
If it is, for churchgoers the next synod may be less a pharisaic comedy of manners, more honest, less self-deceiving – more like Jesus with his whip of cords and scandalous habit of treating women as equals?