By Sarah Cokley, ABC Religion & Ethics

In a miasma of negative publicity, the General Synod of the Church of England has just voted against its current Measure to allow women priests to be consecrated as bishops.

But the loss was a narrow and strange one. A two thirds majority is needed in all three “Houses” – Bishops, Clergy and Laity – and the Measure lost by merely six votes in the House of Laity, having passed easily in the other two Houses, and having received overall a handsome numerical majority. Recent elections to Synod allowed conservatives (both Catholic and Evangelical) to push forward more candidates into the House of Laity with precisely this vote in mind; and it has long been noted that the House of Laity contains more than its expected share of conservative, elderly or bureaucratically-inclined church people.

Yet in a tortuously long process of reflection and discussion leading up to this final vote, 42 of the 44 diocesan synods in the Church of England had voted for the Measure. Hence, the “No” vote constitutes a real crisis in representational structures in the Synod, as well as a noted new tension between Church and State. The Prime Minister – doubtless scenting a vote-puller – has not been slow to express his dismay at the outcome; and since the whole future of the House of Lords (and the presence of bishops in it) currently hangs in the balance, further pressure could in principle be applied by the government on the Church on this score: no women bishops, no representation in the House of Lords? We shall see. Read the full story here.

By Catherine Bennett, Guardian UK

There can be little rest this Christmas for literalists who have just seen off the Church of England’s attempt to defy the women-suppressing message of the scriptures. In his new Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, a prequel to two other books about the Saviour, Pope Benedict XVI establishes that the role of donkeys is also subject to wilful over-representation by many modern Christians, who persist in honouring them in Nativity scenes. The star and shepherds, a multitude of the heavenly host and a stable – all these, he finds, are plausible. “In the area round Bethlehem, rocky caves had been used as stables since ancient times.” But the manger does not indicate the presence of donkeys, cows, sheep or any livestock whatsoever. “In the Gospel, there is no reference to animals at this point.”

If the Pope is inclined to forgive fanciful iconography in this respect, “no representation of the crib is complete without the ox and the ass,” we can surely expect something more from the punctilious Anglican laity. Having now witnessed their fervour, one pictures these purists, come Christmas, scanning parish churches for evidence of the donkey heresy and either confiscating the farm animals or, like their predecessors in the Reformation, vandalising the sentimental ornaments or smiting their heads off. As his holiness says: “With a text like the Bible, whose ultimate and fundamental author, according to our faith, is God himself, the question regarding the here and now of things past is undeniably included in the task of exegesis.” Read the full story here.

Sally Hitchiner, chaplain of Brunel University, leaves  the Church of England Synod at Church House in London on Nov 20, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Tuesday, Nov. 20, the General Synod of the Church of England voted on a measure to allow women to be consecrated as bishops. The measure required a 2/3 majority in all three houses (bishops, clergy, and laity), and fell short in the house of laity by just a few votes. 132 votes were cast in favor of women bishops, and 74 against. No one abstained. Reuters calls this four votes short. Washington Post says five, but the Church of England counts six.

However one rounds 2/3, a historic shift was missed by a handful of votes. The Church of England must face the fall-out of another missed opportunity to join the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand in consecrating women bishops.

Christina Rees, Synod member and former chairman of an advocacy group called “Women and the Church,” called the vote “an unnecessary and an unholy delay.” She remains convinced that women will become bishops in the Church of England, noting that most bishops and most clergy of both sexes support the measure and “feel hugely sad and worse than sad, embarrassed and angry.” Read More…

Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham

Several news outlets in the UK are reporting that Bishop of Durham Justin Welby is to replace Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. The report has not yet been confirmed by the Crown Nominations Committee. Welby, a former oil executive, has less than a year experience as a bishop, and only took his first steps toward the clergy in the 1990s.

The selection of Welby, who opposes gay marriage, would represent a marked right-ward shift from the liberal leadership of current Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop of the Church of England, and the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Rowan Williams, who is a poet and theologian as well as a bishop, has held the office since 2003. In March, Williams announced that he would step down at the end of the year to take the position of Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge University. Read More…