14 Jul 2014

Church of England welcomes women bishops. Finally…

Scotland Correspondent

The Church of England synod votes to change its legislation and allow women to serve as bishops, in an historic moment for the church.

The general synod vote took place in York, after a long, five-hour debate during a meeting of the churches’ three houses.

Eighteen months before, an attempt to approve the ordination of women bishops was blocked by a handful of members of the house of laity. Changing the legislation had been approved by the houses of bishops and clergy, but a two-thirds majority was not reached by the church’s “ordinary” members.

Since then, Anglican leaders, including Archbishop Justin Welby, had warned that the church risked looking out of touch, and Prime Minister David Cameron had also given his backing to the move.

The move to allow women bishops comes 20 years after the church approved the appointment of women priests.

Shouts of ‘brill!’

Members of the General Synod spent some moments in prayer and silent reflection before the crucial vote. The legislation eventually received the necessary two thirds majority in all three houses of the general synod, with 37 bishops voting in favour, two against and one abstention, 162 clergy in favour, 25 against and four abstentions.

In the crucial lay votes there were 152 votes in favour, 45 against and five abstentions.

In spite of an appeal from the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, for the result to be heard in silence as is traditional in the Church of England at key votes, there was some clapping and shouts of “brill!” from within the hall when the outcome was announced. Members of the Synod were also seen hugging and cheering as they left the chamber, and bishops, clergy and lay members gathered outside the chamber to pop champagne corks and toast the vote.

‘Great day for the church’

Mr Cameron, who has spoken openly about his religious beliefs in recent months, said: “I warmly welcome today’s vote formally approving women bishops – a great day for the Church and for equality.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, an atheist, also praised the role played by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby in achieving the result.

Two other votes were also passed by simple majorities on Monday – one requesting Royal Assent and the other repealing the Act of Synod which provides for so-called “flying bishops” to minister to parishes which do not accept the authority of women priests.

The plan will now go to the ecclesiastical committe of Parliament and the House of Commons and the House of Lords for consideration. The General Synod would then meet on 17 November to formally declare that women can be bishops.