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.