Church of England rejects compromise over women bishops

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in 2007
Image: Brian.

The Church of England's ruling body, the General Synod, yesterday rejected a compromise deal on the divisive issue of women bishops. An amendment to satisfy traditionalists was jointly proposed by its two most senior clerics, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu. Despite getting a majority of support across the Synod as a whole, it was rejected after narrowly being defeated in the vote of the House of Clergy.

The amendment would have allowed male "complementary bishops" to cater to parishes, which objected to having a female bishop in their diocese. The bishops would supposedly have "co-ordinate" powers, but some campaigners supporting women bishops said the plans would result in an unfair "two-track" system.

"I do not believe this will deliver, and it is certainly not good news for women clergy," said Christine Allsopp, Archdeacon of Northampton, of the proposed amendment.

Many traditionalists have strongly opposed the ordination of female bishops, and threatened to leave the Church over the issue. The situation has been worsened by offers from Pope Benedict for disaffected Anglicans to join the Roman Catholic Church instead.

Earlier Dr Sentamu had claimed that Dr Williams was facing "spin and propaganda", and called for it to end. Dr Williams insisted that the vote should not be considered a test of the Synod's "loyalty" to the two Archbishops, but the rejection is widely seen as a blow to their authority.

The Synod is due to continue its debate on women bishops over the next few days.