The Bishop of Norwich has written a letter voicing his opinion about the failure to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops in the Church of England.

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At the General Synod the draft measure was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority among lay members following the vote on Tuesday.

“The tragedy of Tuesday’s vote is that it is easily interpreted as the Church of England rejecting the ministry of women as priests if the General Synod is unwilling to sanction that they become bishops too,” said the Rt Rev Graham James in his letter to clergy, readers, churchwardens and PCC secretaries.

“We must remind people not just of the overwhelming majority in favour but of the strong and widespread appreciation of our ordained women clergy. There is a huge amount to celebrate in all that has happened in the Church of England over the past 20 years since we agreed to ordain women as priests. I hope we will take every opportunity to encourage those who may feel downhearted and dispirited by Tuesday’s vote.”

Bishop Graham highlighted in his letter that the overall vote in favour of women as bishops was more than 72pc with both the houses of bishops and clergy reaching the required two thirds in favour. He said the legislation failed to reach the two thirds majority in the house of laity by just six votes.

Bishop Graham’s letter:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The workings of the Church of England are often mysterious to those who belong to it, let alone wider society. This seems especially true after Tuesday’s vote in the General Synod on the legislation to consecrate women as bishops. The overall vote was more than 72% in favour, and yet the headlines tell us that the legislation was defeated. Our system requires at least two thirds of those voting overall to be in favour and two thirds in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. It failed to reach the two thirds majority in the House of Laity by just six votes.

Hardly anyone has considered the result good news for the Church of England. Clearly the legislation was not felt adequate by opponents of women bishops, though many of those who spoke against it pledged their cooperation with any moves towards the safe passage of a more suitable Measure. But it will not be at all easy to identify a solution which will satisfy all sides, given the years that we have already put into discussions, debates and negotiations leading to Tuesday’s vote. But with God all things are possible. Through Jesus Christ and his cross what appears tragic is transformed by him into a triumph of love.

So this isn’t the time to stop listening to each other or honouring each other within our Church. It is a time to go even deeper in prayer and to offer our disappointment to God as we seek a better and more united future.

As the Archbishop of Canterbury said to the General Synod on Wednesday morning, we do have some explaining to do. First of all, we need to explain ourselves to wider society. The tragedy of Tuesday’s vote is that it is easily interpreted as the Church of England rejecting the ministry of women as priests if the General Synod is unwilling to sanction that they become bishops too. We must remind people not just of the overwhelming majority in favour but of the strong and widespread appreciation of our ordained women clergy. There is a huge amount to celebrate in all that has happened in the Church of England over the past twenty years since we agreed to ordain women as priests. I hope we will take every opportunity to encourage those who may feel downhearted and dispirited by Tuesday’s vote.

Secondly, there will be many who will find themselves puzzled about the disparity between the voting in our Diocesan Synods and the General Synod. We must not be tempted into thinking there is anything dishonourable in setting the bar so high before we proceed with a very significant change in our Church. It is one of the great virtues of the Church of England that we want to take as many people with us as possible whenever such changes are made. In a society in which minorities are not always honoured, despite the common rhetoric about them, our part of the Christian Church takes its responsibility in creating unity and diversity very seriously indeed.

The House of Bishops met early on the morning after the vote and we shall be meeting again in less than three weeks for two days. Please pray for your bishops as they seek to lead our beloved Church through the consequences of this vote, and especially for Bishop Justin as he prepares to begin his ministry as Archbishop of Canterbury in the New Year.

Meanwhile, the work of mission and ministry in our parishes, schools, organisations and communities goes on. God continues to call us to be bearers of the good news of his love in Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit we will continue the mission which he has entrusted to us.

God bless you all.

+Graham Norvic

10 comments

  • Perhaps is is time to discourage men AND women from becoming bishops, and put to rest this medieval nonsense. "Offer our disappointment to God" - seriously ??

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    GoodRockinDaddy

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • We have long said that the church should be responsive to its members, and not just the clergy, but this is one case where the 'people' have been shown to be out of step with the modern world. The C of E is in danger of becoming an anachronism.

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    kenneth jessett

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • I find it amazing that the Bishops and Clergy only accept that things are "God's will' when they get their own way! If this motion had gone through they would all be up in their pulpits preaching how this was obviously the will of God. Now that it hasn't they are getting angry and wish to "offer our dissappointment to God". What, give him a good telling off from mortal man and stop being naughty?! The problem with peddling this medieval nonsense in a modern world is that when this kind of thing happens it kinda helps prove how daft the idea of religion is! I wonder if Archdeacon Jan McFarlane (yesterday's story) is still eyeing up her dog collar, deciding whether to be "friends" again. I have a friend too, mine is a pencil sharpener. See you in the loony bin!

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    Walsham Boy

    Friday, November 23, 2012

  • The answer wa NO,so accept Gods Will

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • The democratic vote means nothing iin LiberalLeft politics

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • Religion,the oldest form of crowd control.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • Surly it was the Evangelicals who believe in the written word of the Bible proclaiming a Father figure to proclaim the Word .This is the part of the C of E where congregations are on the increase. The paradox is the Clergy and Bishops do not want to marginalize this section.

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • Could it be that the Leity were protecting the real church, after all they are the front line of the church. It's all well for bishops "praying for others" but the mechanics, churchwarden and congregation would have to pick up the bits after such a change, certainly in this diocese with the large amount of churches. It has been decided and all that voted were committed Christians that alone should be accepted, poor losers in this article including Mc Farlane who didn't do herself justice from yesterdays report.

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    Marigold

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

  • "..so accept Gods Will". Did she have a vote?

    Report this comment

    kenneth jessett

    Friday, November 23, 2012

  • or change the rules,as no doubt could well happen,its all a bit like the Irish Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty,keep at it until you get your way !!

    Report this comment

    Albert Cooper

    Thursday, November 22, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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