Bishops vow to lead the way for women among the ranks
Leading figures in the Church of England have promised female clergy that the ordination of women bishops “will happen”, as the fall-out from the failure to pass the measure on Tuesday intensified.
The Bishop of Gloucester led calls for a second attempt much sooner than the five years until the matter can be raised at the church’s General Synod meeting again.
The Rt Rev Michael Perham said women vicars and other more senior female figures “know their priesthood is honoured and valued”, as those in favour spoke of their anger and frustration.
A vast majority of bishops and clergy voted in favour of the ordination of female bishops, and the General Synod’s lay members also voted in favour, by 132 votes to 74 – though six votes short of the two-thirds majority required to change a 500-year-old rule.
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“The failure of the Women Bishops Measure to achieve the necessary majority in the House of Laity is a huge disappointment and sadness,” said Bishop Michael.
“Many men as much as many women will experience this as a real blow, but my heart goes out particularly to our women clergy who have ministered so effectively in the Church and had hoped today would be an affirmation of their ministry.”
Among the Church figures in the West is the Very Rev Dr June Osborne, Dean of Salisbury, one of the most senior women in the Anglican Church – and who might have been expected to be among the first women bishops. Dr Osborne is working for the church in the Sudan and was unavailable to comment, but the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtham, said he regretted the vote. “We should now expect a good deal of prayer and thought to try to find what God is saying to us.”
And the Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Rt Rev Peter Price, said the decision was “devastating’, and directed his thoughts to women among the clergy. “As a supporter of the ordination of women to the episcopate, I have always sought to have a care for those who do not take the position that I do,” he said. “I believe that the provision they looked for was possible and, along with fellow bishops, committed myself to an inclusive church at every level.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “very sad” about the way the vote went. He said: “I’m very clear the time is right for women bishops, it was right many years ago. They need to get on with it, as it were, and get with the programme.”
Bishop Peter Price and Bishop Peter Maurice yesterday announced there will be a service at Wells Cathedral on Monday at noon in which people can gather to pause, pray, and reflect.