Comments: Press coverage and comment

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 can'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.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:22am GMT

This comment from the Guardian's Editorial made be laugh out loud: "Most of the public have little time for arcane theological arguments from traditionalist Anglo-Catholics about the Apostolic Succession and the fact that Jesus chose only men to be his disciples. (He also only chose Jews...)

Posted by Randal Oulton at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:51am GMT

Last Sunday afternoon Rowan Williams attended a farewell evensong in Canterbury Cathedral, and I was reminded of the scene just over twenty years ago when, at an evening eucharist on St Theodore's day, Robert Runcie - in his own farewell message to his diocese - begged his hearers "not to mock Synod".

However, I now think that a little candid invective is in order.

All I can say now is why should Synod not be mocked? Indeed, why should Synod not be abolished?

Forget about the Prayer Book fiasco - a modern Parliament, for all the unbelievers it contains, could be relied upon to do a better job than this gimcrack excuse of an ecclesiastical legislature.

It is a hopeless travesty of democracy and almost the negation of sound government.

It has humiliated an outstanding archbishop in the evening of his career.

It has insulted at least half the population and the large and growing body of women in orders - many of whom are exceptional pastors and often the effective missionaries of a message that has been traduced by two coteries of obscurantist morons (united solely by their laughable dread of female leadership), who would cut off their noses to spite their faces.

It has given great heart to the large body of opinion in this country and beyond who despise the Christian religion and the Anglican church in particular - a body of opinion that is likely to swell in size as a result of this contemptible rejection of an inadequate, but sincere, compromise.

Why does the Church continue to nurse this nest of vipers (that is, the Reform and Forward in Faith cabals) within its bosom? Why are these wreckers still tolerated?

Who gives a fig for the sincerity of their purblind, myopic and bigoted opinions and their cynical, opportunistic and desperate machinations?

I am reminded of Cromwell's famous exclamation to the Rump (echoed by Leo Amery to Neville Chamberlain in the Norway debate) - Reform, FiF and - indeed - Synod have sat long enough - and have sat far too long.

In the name of God, Go!

Posted by Froghole at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 1:55am GMT

The quickest way to achieve a reversal of the disastrous decision is for all female members of the church and other supporters nationally to withhold their contributions to the collection in church until women are admitted to the episcopacy. Nothing will bring the church to its senses faster than a financial crisis, The C of E is dependent on income - we need action from the pew to bring Synod to a decision.

Posted by tbpilgrim at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 2:11am GMT

How is it possible for a significant minority in the Lay House to vote against the position of the diocese they are sent to Synod to represent? Do these persons represent only themselves or their parishes or a factional activist group?

TEC polity is regularly dismissed in a condescending manner by the officers of Canterbury, lately on the first day of Synod. In TEC most dioceses elect those who will represent the majority view of the diocese. I can't imagine the uproar that would ensue if a determined minority defeated a measure with overwhelming support in the dioceses.

As long as the lay house functions as a sort of parliament of determined parties struggling for control, there is little hope that any reasonable version of this legislation could pass.

How are lay delegates to Synod chosen? Are they not expected to represent the voted on positions of their dioceses? How is it morally acceptable for a significant minority to treat Synod as a merely political body used to advance a personal or factional agenda

Posted by karenmacqueen+ at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 4:08am GMT

Last time around, progressives joined with conservatives to defeat the measure because of the language inserted by the bishops. Did the measure fail again because a few progressives still objected to the watered down provision in the measure voted on today?

Posted by ruidh at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 4:50am GMT

It's worth remembering that the House of Laity margin in favour of women priests in 1992 was only two votes over the two thirds.

A key handful of the laity in 1992 changed their minds, persuaded by the debate; some, intending to vote against instead abstained and some actually voted in favour - led by friends with whom they were in profound disagreement but who they trusted. That debate - still counted the finest in the Church of England's history - was characterised by prayerful and loving persuasion of the dissenting minority and a proper regard for the function of Synod.

Yesterday's debate was not of the same kind; it was characterised by a hectoring spirit all round, with some exceptions, most notably that of Elaine Storkey's which for me had the true hallmark of the 1992 debate. There were, perhaps tellingly, no recorded abstentions in the House of Laity.

Ultimately, to get the additional votes will involve a new approach by advocates, understanding that the function of the General Synod is not simply to provide a showcase for deeply held conviction and that the effectiveness of a speech is not measured by the media reportage or the enthusiastic support of the speaker's own constituency but is to be found in the the hearts and minds, and the actions, of those with whom they profoundly disagree.

Posted by Jonathan Jeninngs at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 5:57am GMT

@Rod Gillis: And where, exactly, in the Scriptures and traditions of the Church do you find evidence to support your claim that "the church ought to make a clear stand in favor of human rights"? The language of 'human rights' (among which the right to be a priest is not numbered) seem to me to have much less to do with the core of the Christian faith than the "medieval hocus-pocus" and "ancient Near Eastern mythology" for which you have such evident contempt. Why bother to be a Christian at all if you want to put all that pre-modern nonsense aside and join the cult of liberal rights-rhetoric?

As it happens, I support women bishops. I was confirmed by one. I hope to see them in the Church of England as soon as possible, and I'm sorry that the motion was lost. But it was lost in part because of the sneering attitude of those who cannot admit that their opponents might have genuine and sincerely-held theological reasons for opposing the place of women in the episcopate. I am not one of them, but they are not "crazies," or the "lunatic fringe." They are our brothers and sisters in the faith - yes, many of them women. They deserve our care and our respect, not the cheap and small-minded insinuation that they're all misogynists. Tolerance cannot succeed by being intolerant - that is a message the liberals in the church (of whom, I suppose, I am reluctantly one) might like to mull over today.

Posted by rjb at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 6:29am GMT

rjb, you are right to suggest there is no 'right' to be a bishop, priest of a deacon.

But there would surely be a right to be considered? to be heard and to have a vocation tested and properly explored?

Jonathan Haggar writes somewhere 'we have women priests because we baptise girls'. Surely every qualification after that is suspect ...

Posted by Jonathan Jennings at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 7:34am GMT

The point repeatedly made contrasting GS's failure to approve the Measure and the votes of 42/44 Dioceses is bogus.

The Dioceses are like large parliamentary constituencies (or American States), 42 of which contained a significant minority of 'No' votes, two a majority. Counting the Dioceses is a winner takes all method, which effectively ignores the minority. The GS HofL is of course by contrast a one person one vote affair, whose vote reflects precisely the balance of opinion at the time.

This is all very straightforward, not amazing or shocking. The GS votes reflected the wider balance of opinion reasonably fairly. It is not a fundamentally flawed or broken system.

The rules were followed and the 'No' side achieved its objective. No justification for bitterness or melodrama, I'm afraid.

Posted by Original Observer at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 8:25am GMT

Well we cannot blame the bishops this time....perhaps the next time there are Deanery Synod and General Synod elections the voting laity might read the manifestos a little more carefully and probe a little deeper at the hustings.....who was it who said "We get the representatives we deserve"?

Posted by Robert Ellis at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 8:39am GMT

tbpilgrim writes: "The quickest way to achieve a reversal of the disastrous decision is for all female members of the church and other supporters nationally to withhold their contributions to the collection in church until women are admitted to the episcopacy. "

Please don't do this, tbpilgrim. Speaking as a woman priest, I can say that all this would do would be to cripple the work of individual churches and put their parish priests (many of whom are women) out of a job.
Many conservative evangelical churches would be completely unaffected if this happened, since they often promote tithing very vigorously, and tend to have gathered congregations who share their views (and many are already witholding their church's contribution to Diocesan and central funds). It is the churches which prioritise serving their local communities and being there for anyone in the parish who needs them, regardless of their commitment or ability to pay who would suffer.
The best thing for lay people to do if they want to see women bishops is to stand for election to the General Synod (or stand for Deanery Synod and then make sure they ask tough questions of those standing for GS). It isn't the Bishops and Clergy who voted this measure down but laity, so please don't punish those who depend on the church for their livelihoods and homes, or hamstring the ministry of parish churches by witholding your money.

Posted by Anne at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 8:40am GMT

I wonder if a significant aspect of the issue is the 'make up' of the House of Laity, which partly constrained by the question of who are the Laity who can manage to spend most of two full weeks on General Synod each year. So it probably leads to an over-representation of retired people and of married women who for philosophical reasons don't have a full time job themselves but tend to see their (and other women's) role as being primarily to 'support' their husbands - and men in general. I may respect the right of such women to hold their views but - as I am only too aware from personal past experience of sexism and discrimination - their control as 'volunteers' in a number of Christian settings can lead to a refusal to tolerate and support women who think differently to them. That would I think partly explain the difference between the voting in the dioceses and the voting at General Synod on this issue.

Posted by Clare at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 8:45am GMT

Roll on 2015. It cannot come soon enough - when the current G.S. Members will have, hopefully, been questioned on their recalcitrant behaviour, when what in fact they should have been doing is truly represent their own diocesan Synods. It just needs a few younger and more pro-active non-sexist lay people in synod to overcome the patriarchal inertia.

Maybe, in 2015, the opponents of Women bishops will get no such generous provision as was promised in the failed legislation. That would aloow poetic justice to take the place of the justice that has been denied in this case.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 9:34am GMT

With regard to the two-thirds rule, can anyone tell me:
1) apart from issues of woman priests and women bishops, in what other cases has it applied?
2) how many dioceses voted two-thirds in favour of the women bishops motion referred to them as Chapter 8 business?

Posted by Barbara Moss at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 10:12am GMT

Robert Ellis it might help if Diocesan Synod reps actually voted for General Synod reps. The percentage who actually vote is shockingly small..perhaps Peter Owen could tell us. the House of Clergy tend to vote on "party" lines...those who stand for the H of L are those mostly who can give time to it and are often voted in because they are deemed "good laity, who do things" and whose opinions are not deeply scrutinised.

Posted by Perry Butler at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 10:15am GMT

The rule requiring two-thirds majorities in all three Houses is mandated for a number of issues in the General Synod's standing orders.

For example, it is required at final approval stage for any proposed liturgy that is alternative to a form in the 1662 Prayer Book. so, all the stuff in the 1980 ASB was approved that way, and a very large part of the main CW volume too (and some of the other CW material, though much of that is additional to the BCP and commended rather than authorized).

It is required for any amendment to the Church Representation Rules (which govern the Synod and diocesan and deanery synods, and PCCs). It is required under 'Article 8' business (i.e. matters referred to the Diocesan Synods) when the Synod determines that it shall apply (actually the SO gives the Synod the power to et any special majority by Houses or of the whole Synod in this particular case). It is required on any motion to suspend Standing Orders.

Standing Orders can be found at

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 10:44am GMT

"By again rejecting women bishops, the Church of England has detonated its credibility with modern Britain" Lucy Winkett

Given that gender discrimination has been illegal for everyone else in this country for the last 37 years, I would question whether the Church of England only lost its credibility yesterday.

Posted by Laurence C. at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 11:01am GMT

I think the 2/3ds rule applied in the case of the Covenant with Methodism. Another dark day where a very good scheme was narrowly lost. The proposing bishop, David Brown of Guildford, died the next day of a heart attack.

Posted by Jeremy Pemberton at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:17pm GMT

As I posted on another thread overnight, the problem lies almost entirely in the makeup of the House of Laity, which is hopelessly and shamefully unrepresentative of the views of the laity at large. In the diocese of Rochester, three of the nine elected representatives on GS come from the same conservative evangelical parish. In a diocese of 220 parishes, it simply should not be allowed for any one parish to provide a third of the GS reps. The fact that the same parish also withholds a significant proportion of its parish share only exacerbates the sense of unfairness and injustice felt by many in the diocese. If a similar situation exists in just two other dioceses (and I bet it does)it is not hard to see where the 6 missing votes could come from, given a fairer and more effective electoral system.

But I also wonder if it was a big mistake to insist that the Code of Practice could not be agreed until the main measure had been passed. Why not? Who insisted on this restrictive practice? If the CoP had been on the table as well, at least the argument about signing a blank cheque, advanced by many speakers opposed to the measure, could not have been used. Perhaps that alone could have delivered the 6 votes.

Posted by Malcolm Dixon at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 12:29pm GMT

I'm very interested in Claire's comments (above) about the makeup of the House of Laity in Synod. I have noticed (admittedly as an observer at a distance) that Synod members seem to hold more extreme views than the general run of parishioners, and hold them more doggedly. This creates difficulties for the Church and stumbling blocks for the unchurched.

One reform that might make a difference would involve shortening the face-to-face meeting times of Synod. Some face-to-face business could surely be done through Internet meetings and "webinars." Shortening the length of face-to-face meetings would open membership in Synod to a wider spectrum of the Church, which would surely be seen as desirable.

In addition, the AffCath party (and again, this is an observation from a distance) has been reluctant to engage in Synod politicking, feeling it somehow beneath them. This has allowed unrepresentative and even extreme views to dominate lay Synod membership. I recall that a few years ago Synod was very nearly induced to recognize ACNA; the movement to do so flew under the AffCath radar until the very last minute.

AffCath ought to begin to pay more attention to what we in the US call the "ground game." In particular, AffCath ought to pay attention to parish elections. The laity in general are on board with AffCath views but parish elections do not reflect this.

Posted by Charlotte at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 1:31pm GMT

@ rjb "And where, exactly, in the Scriptures and traditions of the Church do you find evidence to support your claim that "the church ought to make a clear stand in favor of human rights"?"

The short insouciant answer to this question is that there is no exact evidence in scripture or ancient tradition that propels the church to make a clear stand in favor of human rights--certainly not if one accepts that the gender roles embedded in ancient Mediterranean texts have been dictated from heaven and are binding for all time, or if one believes that the gender roles found in the patriarchal social structures of the Greco-Roman world have more to offer us than contemporary social analysis regarding sexism and gender bias.

However, a modern Christian social ethic with integrity and credibility, requires more than a reading of history as if it were a constitution that cannot be amended. It requires the very hard work of engaging the social order and articulating in both word and deed, exactly how it is that very important advances in the struggle for human and civil rights may be embraced by religious people based on transcendent values i.e. human dignity.

And yes, I do have a sang froid opposition for male privilege that argues for putting down women based on arcane and marginal medieval applications of Aristotelian philosophy. Faux conciliation is the servant of injustice.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 2:20pm GMT

Despite all the earnest offers by Reform, FiF and Catholic Group for talks, nothing can be achieved until there is a new synod in 2015. There is no basis on which the business can return during this 2010-2015 quinquennium and even if it did it could not complete a brand new legislative process in under three years, by which time we will have a new synod. As noted in comments above, the problem is the unrepresentaitive House of Laity. Those reactionaries who voted against will be targeted in the 2015 elections and the hope might be that the business can come back when there will be 80% suppoprt or more and all this controversial protections/honourable place stuff can be abandoned. That will be the more honest approach and any who don't like it can leave. That absolutely was not my approach until last evening but the losers will be those traditionalists who failed to see what they were being offered.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 2:35pm GMT

Had the original HoB amendment been retained I suspect the outcome would have been different. The Appleby amendment, with its talk of 'respect', would probably have amounted to a distinction without a difference in practice, but it nonetheless gave the impression that something vague and watered down was being substituted. To have had sight of a functional draft code of practice would also have been helpful. It could have happened, but in the end it was all thrown away.

Posted by Original Observer at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 3:13pm GMT

Clare, that's possible, but not necessarily true. TEC's delegates are almost all older, retired, well off people who can afford to spend two weeks at GC and it doesn't stop them from being progressive. It could be that the laity really is more conservative than the leaders give them credit for. It could also be that more progrssive folk aren't members of the churches, preferring to attend but not become members, or that the delegates this time around came from conservative parishes. Or maybe they believed, like many of the posts earlier this year, that too much was being given to conservatives and voted no so that next time there won't be anything offered to them.

That a conservative would vote no when nobody would tell them exactly what the Code would be, just a "Trust us, we'll respect you" promise, doesn't surprise me.

Posted by Chris H. at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 3:54pm GMT

Tt really saddens me when I hear the traditionalists saying they want the unity of the Church and that could only be obtained by proper safety measures for them.

They claim orthodoxy ( when in effect Reform and Anglo catholic conservatives) hold diametrical understandings of the Gospel, yet they would vote for what they perceive as heresy and wrong as long as they have their security! Some orthodoxy that is!

I was surprised to hear the Archbishop of York on the today programmme stating that these people need stronger safe guards to guarantee passage of the measure.That is nonsense and a great mistake. Furthermore , the pro women bishop faction could still not have a two thirds majority in seven years! Conservative evangelicals are growing stronger and more vociferous.

The pro women bishops faction need to explore the option of getting the Synod to decide on the validity of ANGLICAN women bishops overseas and the validity of their ordinations and consecrations. Surely this could be a good back door. It would not need a two thirds majority, and once passed a church of England bishops could invite an overeas women bishop to work in their diocese or come over for an ordination.

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 5:49pm GMT

Andrew Brown wrote:
"[Conservative evangelicals] do not, quite simply, believe that women should exercise teaching authority over men."
Endless debate. Endless articles, commentaries, blogs, etc.
Neatly summed up in one concise sentence.
The conservatives never will believe. Period.
They take a few words of St. Paul and others out of the time and place they were writing in, and make them permanent, universal, unchanging, over-riding Holy Writ.
After all, for centuries, they have been told God made man in His image.
Notice, God made man. God is “He”. No leading "wo" or “S” anywhere to be found.
Now, some hand-wringing wimps may argue "But that's a generalized ‘man’! Women are included!"
The true believers ignore such liberal rot.
Men Are Special. God Tells Us So.
Jesus was a man. The apostles were men. St. Paul was a man. The Church Fathers were men.
Yes, the resurrected Jesus first appeared to a woman. That was an unfortunate oversight. But! It took male apostles to see it with their own eyes -- women can be sooo emotional -- to make it real.
It is more than high time to move on.
It's bad enough in religion, but it's also felt in politics.
Margaret Thatcher faced it. I didn't like her politics, but there is no doubt she was competent, a leader. But, in her own party, the woman simply didn't know her place. It was her own party that put the iron in the Iron Lady.
Here in the USA, a female presidential candidate faced billboards in the Midwest opposing her. Not because of her politics. Not because of her proposals. But because women shouldn't have authority over men.
Thank you, Andrew Brown.
If the Church of England wants to remain relevant, it needs to tackle male superiority head on.

Posted by peterpi - Peter Gross at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 9:10pm GMT

'All in the end is harvest.'

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Wednesday, 21 November 2012 at 10:20pm GMT

"But I also wonder if it was a big mistake to insist that the Code of Practice could not be agreed until the main measure had been passed. Why not?"

Because the gory details would not have satisfied WB opponents, and would have caused more WB proponents to vote against the measure.

Posted by Jeremy at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 10:03am GMT

Proper procedures were followed. There was a result. One can't rewrite the rules. One should not vilify anti-WO people. One should not exaggerate the scale of the crisis (as, for example, Rowan Williams did). One should try to get a 'fix' which will satisfy everyone. This seems to mean 'liberals' letting go a little more. It's not actually a big ask. There is far too much hysteria going on.

Posted by John at Thursday, 22 November 2012 at 10:06am GMT

"One should try to get a 'fix' which will satisfy everyone. This seems to mean 'liberals' letting go a little more."

It rather seems that conservatives are still misjudging the weakness of their position.

Such tone-deafness is hard to understand, after the political reaction over the past few days.

But it goes some way toward explaining why conservatives refused to recognise that this was the best measure they could hope for.

Now the misogynists have made themselves convenient political whipping boys. Westminster--so rarely united--is furious.

Please continue, misogynists. You are very good at digging your own graves.

And MPs can play the political game infinitely better than you can.

The question now is whether Tony Baldry can hold the let's-work-with-Justin-Welby line. Baldry received some sharp why-not-a-short-bill questions from his own backbenchers.

Posted by Jeremy at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 3:13am GMT


I think you are seriously wrong in characterising opponents of WO as per se 'misogynists'.

Posted by John at Friday, 23 November 2012 at 8:24pm GMT

John, the Synod majority spoke nicely, and look where it got them.

Opponents of women's ordination are hiding bad theology behind demands for grace and courtesy. This results in a lot of dishonesty.

Enough of the double-talk.

Jesus did not mince words with the Pharisees. He had enemies and he told them exactly what he thought of them.

So let's defeat the epistemic circle.

If anyone objects to the word "misogyny," there are alternative phrasings.

Discrimination is wrong, sinful, unChristian, and evil.

There should be no honoured place for bigotry.

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 10:41am GMT

@John: "By their fruits ye shall know them."

Posted by Jeremy at Saturday, 24 November 2012 at 2:09pm GMT
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