The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James. Picture: Denise Bradley

Bishops’ disappointment and sorrow after law change to introduce women bishops fails

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
9.31 PM

Bishops from around the region say they feel disappointed and sorrowful after legislation introducing the first women bishops failed to clear its final hurdle tonight.

And the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, insisted a “constructive way forward” must be found urgently, after describing the vote in favour of a change in the law as “overwhelming”.

The Church of England’s draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy of the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst the lay members of the General Synod.

The House of Bishops voted 44 in favour, with three against and two recorded abstentions. In the House of Clergy, 148 voted in favour, 45 against and there were no abstentions.

But in the House of Laity, 74 voted against, compared to 132 in favour with no abstentions.

If six people had changed their vote from no to yes in the House of Laity, the legislation would have received the necessary two thirds majority.

The defeat will mean the legislation will take at least another five years before it could reach the same stage for debate in the General Synod.

The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury the Rt Rev Justin Welby, had urged the General Synod to give the legislation the necessary majority.

And Bishop James said: “The vote in favour of the legislation to ordain women as bishops was overwhelming.

“But we do set the bar very high by expecting a two-thirds majority in order to carry as many people as possible with us.

“Many of those who voted against did pledge themselves to work for better legislation to make it possible to proceed with women bishops.

“We now need urgently to find a constructive way forward. It feels very disappointing, especially as the ministry of women priests has been so well received.

“But I am sure that God will lead us into a hopeful future where everyone will celebrate.”

The Rt Revd Stephen Conway, the Bishop of Ely, said the hopes of a very clear majority of churchgoers had been “thwarted” for the time being.

He said: “I am deeply sorrowful about the failure of the General Synod to pass the draft legislation to consecrate women as bishops.

“It is terribly wounding not only for our devoted clergy who are women, but also for me and all who long for women to exercise the ministry to which God calls them in all three sacred orders.”

Dr Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester and Master of the College of Guardians, said: “The General Synod’s vote not to proceed at this stage with the ordination of women as bishops under the terms of the measure that was proposed has emerged from an intense and complex debate in the Church of England.”

Dr Warner added the guardians recognised “the pain and disappointment that this vote will bring to many, Walsingham pilgrims among them”.

The vote came after a series of speakers opposed giving final approval to the legislation.

A spokesman for the Church of England said there would be an emergency meeting of the House of Bishops tomorrow morning in light of the result.