Church of England general synod rejects women bishops

Key Points

  • The Church of England's general synod has voted against appointing women as bishops.
  • Campaign group Women and the Church called it "a devastating blow" for the Church and the people of England.
  • The next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, earlier called on the synod to approve the measure.
  • The House of Bishops is expected to meet on Wednesday to discuss "how we go forward as a Church".

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    Hello, and welcome to our live coverage of the general synod's vote on women bishops. The Church of England's governing body is due to start voting on the measure, which would make it lawful for women to be consecrated to the office of bishop, from 17.30 GMT.


    Earlier, the next Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, backed the appointment of women bishops, saying it was "time to finish the job" which started with appointing women priests 20 years ago.


    Remaining divisions in the synod centre on whether concessions - under which parishes objecting to women bishops can request to be placed under a stand-in male bishop - go far enough, or too far.


    The issue continues to divide traditionalists - among those on the Church's evangelical and Anglo-catholic wings - from reformers. Bishops and clergy are expected to achieve the necessary two-thirds majorities in favour of the motion, but the lay members' vote may be tight.


    The question of women bishops is just one of the contentious issues the new Archbishop of Canterbury faces when he takes over the post in March. Here, our religious correspondent, Robert Pigott, examines the challenges ahead for the Rt Rev Justin Welby.


    Archbishop John Sentamu, chairing the dabte, says 100 speeches have been heard.


    Dr Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, asks if members want the debate to continue - and cuts the limit on speeches to 30 seconds.

    1714: Fiona Barnett in Hampshire

    tweets: I'm boggling that anyone can argue against women bishops in the name of one of history's greatest proponents of equality and respect. #synod


    A delegate urges members: "We know it's not perfect... but please vote Yes."


    Another delegate says: "No-one has ever told me they won't come to church if we don't have female bishops.... This legislation is not right."


    Margaret White of Newcastle says she has been a faithful member of the Church for 80 years, and asks why opponents like her have not been treated with respect.


    Earlier, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend James Jones, a noted evangelical, said he had changed his mind on the issue. "I now believe that for the mission of God to the people of England it is right for women to take up their place in this House of Bishops sitting before you now," he told the synod.

    1719: Rick Whittaker in Utah, USA

    tweets: Follow the debate and vote on women bishops at the Church of England synod on Twitter; hashtag #synod

    1721: John Dersley in Grange over Sands, Cumbria

    emails: How amusing - and symptomatic - that the C of E can't readily resolve this issue without resorting to measures to nullify the impact of a decision to appoint women bishops by allowing parishes to opt for a male bishop. What a farce, it really shows the C of E in a poor light.


    Dr Sentamu says he hopes the final speakers will be "bringing new points" to the debate.


    A delegate says "Let's vote in favour and show the world that the Church of England can take a risk."

    1723: Franuel in Manchester

    tweets: I think it's admirable giving everyone the chance to speak,but is there seriously anyone there who hasn't already made up their mind? #synod


    Earlier, Canon Simon Killwick, vicar of Christ Church, Moss Side and leader of the Catholic group in the synod, insisted that the measure before it was "not fit for purpose". He said that the compromise wording on provision for opponents of women bishops was "no compromise at all, because it has united against it the whole spectrum of traditionalists."


    And the Reverend Rod Thomas, vicar of St Matthew's Elburton, Plymouth and leader of the Evangelical group Reform, said the measure was forcing members of the Church "to accept something that we do not believe the Bible teaches". "That is profoundly un-Anglican to force people into this position," he said.


    The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told the synod that "a no vote will not do anything positive" for the Church of England. He asked members to act on the "reasonable probability" that allowing women bishops was the right move and to seize this 'potentially liberating moment for us all'.


    If the measure is approved, the legislation will go to Parliament before receiving royal assent. The synod must then debate a Code of Practice on how the law will be carried out.


    If it is defeated, the legislative process will need to start again and another vote might not take place before 2019.

    1727: Helen in Bearsted, UK

    emails: For the women whose gifts would lead them to the episcopate, to make the best use of those gifts, and to bear the greatest witness to Christ, women bishops are a must. In Christ, there is neither male nor female.


    The Rev Philip North says the CofE alone does not have the authority to make the decision on ordaining women bishops.

    1729: Ilkley Parish Church, West Yorkshire

    tweets: Don't forget to pray for #synod now as they vote on women bishops.


    Philip North adds: "Whatever happens, let us commit ourselves to living and worshipping together."

    1730: Kevin

    tweets: @BBC_haveYourSay it seems incompatible with a loving God that he would create woman & refuse her a place in His Church equal to men.

    1733: Elise Gallagher in London

    tweets: Following #synod news on twitter on the train makes for tense travelling.


    Dr Elaine Storkey tells the synod there is a difference between "loving doctrine and being doctrinaire".


    Elaine Storkey says there have been inflammatory words in the debate. She says oppositions have been reinforced by theological positions which become self-defining and used as test of orthodoxy.

    1736: Jeff Reynolds in Nottingham

    tweets: Impressive stuff from Elaine Storkey #synod

    1737: Jules Bottazzi in Billericay

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay If the C of E votes against women bishops, it loses the moral highground and can never preach against discrimination again


    The Bishop of Burnley says: "We can fix this and under God we will" - but opposes the measure for now.


    The Bishop of Leicester says a No vote will diminish Church's standing in Parliament and will cause another decade of dispute.


    Reverend Angus MacLeay, vicar of Sevenoaks, gives winding-up speech against the measure.

    Jo Dolby in Bath

    tweets: Listening live to #synod, hoping I'm listening to history being made, justice being done and equality served.

    1748: Ian in Canterbury

    emails: In an era where discrimination and segregation is taken very seriously, the Church of England needs to seriously update its policies about women in the Church, allowing them the freedom to take up posts in the Church that currently only men can do.

    1749: Anne Sharman

    tweets: Jesus did not discriminate so why should his church? #synod #womenbishops


    Many during the consideration of the measure were not interested in debate but wanted to institute women bishops as quickly as possible, Angus MacLeay says.


    Angus MacLeay says opponents of women bishops are told all sides have compromised but "we cannot believe it".

    Howard Yeend

    tweets: @JulesBottazzi @BBC_HaveYourSay That's implying they have the moral high ground in the first place.


    Angus MacLeay says when scripture is compared, the authorative teaching role is male.

    1753: Stuart Walton in Torquay

    emails: I pray that my church isn't about to find another way of rejecting its own members


    The synod vote is now due to be at 18.15 GMT, not 18.00, BBC News correspondent Philippa Thomas says she has been told.


    The Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, is now on his feet again and making the final speech in the debate, in support of the measure.


    To those delegates who have called for more time to debate the issue, Bishop McCulloch said: "We have spent years of time and I have aged considerably in the process."

    1759: Maximilian Lawrie in Hatfield, Hertfordshire

    emails: You only need to have a look at the state of the Church of England to see how much of a negative impact this will have. There is a huge range of beliefs and practices, so much though that you're never guaranteed the same Church teaching from any two Bishops. The more the Church is following the practices of the world, the less credible it becomes.

    1800: George Howes in Cambridge

    emails: It doesn't matter if the Church votes in favour of this motion or not, it'll still be 50 years behind the rest of society on contraception, gay marriage and abortions.

    1800: John in Newcastle

    emails: Many people commenting are basing their views on the fact that the church should adapt its views so as to fall into line with society. The church should be in the world, not of it.

    1802: Reverend Jane Willis in Devon

    tweets: Breath bated on the verge of the vote... Longing for a yes - and praying, whatever the outcome, for grace in vast quantites #synod

    1802: Abby Clarke in Coventry

    emails: There were women apostles in the bible - why can there not be women bishops now? I'm praying the synod votes wisely on this decision


    The last 20 years have not been easy for all sides of the argument, acknowledged Bishop McCulloch. But he said if the legislation were defeated and "we will be ensuring all the tensions and arguments will continue unabated for years".


    Urging the Synod to give the legislation final approval, the Bishop of Manchester saysd the legislation would never be seen as "perfect" .

    1806: Reverend Mary Hawes in London

    tweets: #synod I wonder if a clapometer would be useful in discerning the outcome


    As the vote looms, the Synod takes two minutes for prayer and reflection.

    1809: Tim Stanley in Washington DC, USA

    tweets: John Sentamu made an excellent, judicious chair today. What a good Archbishop he might have been... #synod


    The division bell has now rung as the voting beigns.

    1810: David Jervis in East Barnet

    emails: I just cannot believe that any 'good' person who believes in equality can vote against women bishops. Come on, the God I believe in is angry that there is even a debate about this. The Church must show the world that it believes men and women are equal if it wishes to be taken seriously.

    Handset used for voting at the Synod

    And here is a picture of the voting handset used at the General Synod.


    The voting period has now ended

    1813: Reverend Kathy Ferguson

    emails: The measure to ordain women as bishops was rejected by the Church in Wales and the church here is now even more irrelevant to those outside than it was before. I'm praying that the Church of England doesn't make the same mistake today.

    1815: Breaking News

    Measure for appointment of women bishops fails in House of Laity


    The vote in the House of Laity went 132 in favour and 74 against, so the measure failed to obtained the required two-thirds majority.

    1818: Christopher Hoult in London

    tweets: I feel like #CofE have just made themselves irrelevant. Well, more irrelevant. #synod #womenbishops


    As expected the vote passed the House of Bishops and House of Clergy. For the record, the Bishops voted 44 in favour, three against and two abstentions. And the House of Clergy voted 148 in favour, with 45 against.

    1821: Religious journalist Riazat Butt

    tweets: One in the eye for women, one in the eye for archbishops and one in the eye for the Church of England

    1822: Ian Macdonald

    tweets: Can't believe it, feels so wrong. Not sure how to explain this among the young people I work with and serve #synod

    1822: Jan Goulding in Edinburgh

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay The Church Of England has surely consigned itself extinction by showing it's lack of relevance to the modern world

    1825: Steph Savill in Sussex

    tweets: A dark ages day for #womenbishops. This was the wrong #Synod decision to make @BBC_HaveYourSay

    1826: James Ogley in Luton

    tweets: People, we prayed for love and grace. Now let's show some. #synod

    1832: John M. Kagaruki in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay The word bishop means overseer. Anyone who feels women cannot oversee has deep issues. Jesus certainly had none with it.

    1833: Alan Bell in Leigh, England

    emails: Doctrine cannot change to fit in with modern trends. Well done for sticking with Biblical teaching.


    The BBC's Philippa Thomas reports that the Rev Sally Hitchiner is putting a "brave face" after the vote. "We are hopeful that it will still happen," she says.

    1833: Sundeep Sood in Glasgow

    emails: Equality is a strong pillar of British Society. If the Church will not accept women bishops then they reject British values and reject half the population of this country. This should be the start of a scrutiny of all major faiths in the UK and whether they discriminate.

    1833: Anne Marie in Newport, Rhode Island

    tweets: Odd hearing one's being, vocation, ministry, priesthood discussed as a problem, challenge, thing to be dealt with. Kyrie eleison. #synod

    1835: Bob Jones in London

    emails: As a vicar's son myself I can't believe that the Laity have chosen to block such a vote. I note that the bishops and clergy were in favour, so it's the laity that now need to ask themselves some serious questions about their own beliefs and church.


    The Bishop of Norwich Graham James has spoken to reporters on behalf of the Church of England. He said it "very disappointing that the vote was lost so narrowly" but important to note that the majority of the Synod had voted in favour.


    But Bishop James acknowledged the vote showed there was still division and said a "very big challenge lies ahead". The House of Bishops will meet on Wednesday morning to see how "we can go forward as a Church".

    1838: Reverend Martyn Cripps in Northwich

    emails: Ashamed and disheartened and thankful retirement is around the corner. Let us hope Parliament will force its will on the church and we deserve what will be the outcome!

    1839: Breaking News

    The Women and the Church campaign group has issued a statement, describing the measure's defeat as "a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of this country".


    The statement from Watch continues: "This vote is a missed opportunity for a whole generation to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England".


    Watch's chair, The Reverend Rachel Weir, adds: "This is a tragic day for the Church of England after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise. Despite this disappointing setback, Watch will continue to campaign for the full acceptance of women's gifts of leadership in the Church's life."

    1844: Former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

    tweets: Sick of waiting for the established church to come in line with every other major inst. Disestablish - they don't represent my country.

    1846: Gareth Doodes, Headmaster of Milton Abbey in Dorset

    tweets: @BBC_HaveYourSay would the laity of the general synod like to visit my school and explain this disastrous decision?Totally out of touch.

    1848: TC

    tweets: General Synod was a bad guy in Star Wars, wasn't he? #CofE

    1848: David Sims in Malvern

    emails: Father, forgive them. They don't know what they have done.


    The Catholic group in the General Synod says the "draft legislation failed at final approval because it was unclear and unfair in its provision for those who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops or priests".

    1850: Ann Hodson in Leamington Spa

    emails: This is the most deeply dispiriting news I've heard in a long time. I am quite baffled by this outcome.


    The Catholic Group in the synod is urging calling on the House of Bishops to reconvene talks between representatives of opposing groups. "Mediation and conciliation are needed so that new legislation can be framed to provide fairly for all members of the Church of England," it said.


    Observers point out that if six members of the House of Laity had changed their vote from no to yes, the legislation would have received the necessary two thirds majority.

    1851: Dr Steven Critchley in Sheffield

    emails: It seems odd that a Church whose supreme head on earth is the ruling monarch of the UK cannot accept that divine authority and office can be ministered through a body of dedicated women priests at any level in the Church. Surely, Queen Elizabeth II, anointed at her coronation, is an example of how a female head can enrich and strengthen whilst leading with high authority in spiritual as well as temporal matters?

    1851: Chris in Worcestershire

    emails: The Synod voted in favour of women bishops in all three houses. However, the ridiculous system which demands a two thirds majority failed both the Church and the nation. We are now in a situation where a minority view is determining church policy. Try explaining this mess to the general public.


    In theory the defeat means the legislation will take at least another five years before it could reach the same stage for debate in the General Synod and it could be another two years after that before the next time the General Synod gets to vote on the issue.


    The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, tells the BBC he is "devastated" by the vote.


    The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, said the rejection would be "hard to sell" to the public.

    1859: Thomas Raynor in Leamington Spa

    emails: I fear that the majority of those commenting fail to realise why those who voted against the measure did so. For many, it was not because they opposed female bishops, but they objected to the lack of appropriate measures for those unable to accept their authority... When it returns to synod with appropriate provisions for those that cannot accept the ordination of female bishops, the motion will pass.


    The Bishop of Birmingham, the Rt Rev David Urquhart, says he is "very sad". In a statement, he adds: "I shall continue to support the full inclusion of women in all forms of ministry whilst ensuring that there is an honoured place in the mission of the diocese for those who do not agree with development."


    The evangelical Together 4ward campaign group said it was pleased the measure was not passed "in its current form, which we believe would not have allowed the Church to go forward together".

    1902: Nish in Salt Lake City

    tweets: So saddened by the CoE verdict. Women, one day, it will change. I believe it. Stay faithful in your calling. #Synod

    1906: Simon Edwards in Bath

    emails: With such a small margin within the laity alone, they might like to reflect. The Synod must replay the election and let common sense prevail.

    1906: Michael Kelly in Luton

    emails: As a traditionalist, I am pleased to see that the Laity at least have followed the teachings of the Bible in not allowing women bishops. Perhaps the pro-group now realise their mistake in not allowing proper provision to be made for those opposed to the measure. Unfortunately it means another few years of heartache for Christ's Church here in England.

    1906: Times journalist Ruth Gledhill

    tweets: The Church of England will never ever ever again be in a position to argue against assisted dying or suicide

    1910: Paul T in Omaha, New England

    emails: Good for the laity! It seems the laity are more knowledgeable in the scriptures then the priests and bishops. The Church of England should not claim to accept the canons of the (seven) councils of the Church if they are willing at every turn to violate the ancient canons. I'm glad I'm Orthodox.

    1910: Alan Neades in Dorchester, Dorset

    emails: Tweets show that there is confusion between equality and role. There is no argument that all Christians are equal but there are differing roles. As a layman I am not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist but I am 'equal' to the clergy before God.

    James Price in London

    tweets: The laity managed to derail the motion... How can they be so out of touch with the world?! #synod #shocking

    1915: Reverend Iain Rennie in Lancaster, England

    emails: I retired last year so have no say in synods any more but I weep for the women in our church.

    1916: Nick Moxon in Chorley

    tweets: To those in the house of laity ... We in the 21st century are waiting for you to join us. Come on - its not as bad as you think! #synod

    1916: Pastor Aubrey Vaughan in Leicester

    emails: About time the Church of England listened to their own parishioners & take the Bible seriously, rather than themselves and the politically correct establishment.


    Tony Baldry MP, a Church Estates Commissioner, says he feels "extremely sad" that the new Archbishop of Canterbury will start his tenure in such a situation. He says that, despite overwhelming support for the measure among the dioceses, the vote was rejected in the synod and there now has to be a "fair amount of reflection" within the church.

    1918: Gregory Lauder-Frost in London

    emails: Tremendous news for the Church of England and I am appalled that Bishops are are supporting this monstrous heretical proposal completely against Doctrine.


    Women bishops campaigner Christina Rees describes the vote as a "disaster". She says: "It's a real shame. I really thought it would go through, most of the Synod is in a state of shock. 74% of the Synod said yes but it had to have a two thirds majority in each house... I think it's a betrayal of trust in the wider church."

    1921: Jack Cribben

    tweets: You can always count on religion to stay one step behind in matters of equality #synod


    Lorna Ashworth, from Chichester diocese, voted against the measure but hopes to see women bishops in the future. She says: "What I am absolutely committed to now is to work forward and work ahead toward legislation that will work. I still believe we can do it."

    1924: Canon Lee Francis Dehqani in Oakham,Rutland

    emails: Deeply disappointed and I know that at least two of lay representatives from this Diocese will have voted against this measure and they in no way represent the views of lay people here. The measure was passed overwhelmingly in the Diocesan Synod and unanimously in the house of laity of my own Deanery. The Church looks very silly.

    1926: Reverend Will Vanderhart in West Harrow, London

    tweets: You can be President of the USA with 50.1% of the vote but #synod you can't end inequality with 72.6% of the vote!?! #gofigure


    It will not be possible to formally introduce a motion in the same terms as today before a new General Synod starts in 2015 UNLESS the so-called Group of Six give permission.


    If the Group of Six - the Archbishops, the Prolocutors of clergy of Canterbury and York and the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity - want to restart the process to introduce women bishops early - they will also need to give reasons to the Synod.

    1833: Breaking News

    Bishop of Norwich Graham James says: "The House of Bishops recognises that the Church of England has expressed its mind that women should be consecrated as bishops. There is now an urgent task to find a fresh way forward."


    Canon Faith Claringbull from the Birmingham diocese was among those disappointed by the result. "This was going to be we hoped a good news story for the nation and for the world, for men and women a fuller humanity. We hoped that we'd have something good to say to the world tonight but I feel ashamed of the headlines that will be on the press tomorrow."

    1940: Breaking News

    The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams speaks of his "deep personal sadness" at the Synod vote. "Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and course it is a personal sadness... that that is not the case".


    Catholic Group leader Canon Simon Killwick tells BBC he knew a small number of votes would decide the outcome in the synod.

    1958: Leonard Allen in King's Lynn

    emails: If those in favour of women bishops had not reneged on earlier promises to safeguard the position of the Evangelical and Catholic wings of the Church, the vote for women in the Episcopate would not have been lost. We now have the chance to bring about a settlement that can satisfy all wings of the Church and thus retain what has always been the Church's strength - its truly comprehensive nature, tolerant of many forms of worship.

    1958: Verity Ferguson in Lincolnshire

    tweets: I am usually pleased to be a lay member of the CoE, Just now I'm wishing I was ordained so my reps in #Synod were reflecting my view..

    1958: Bill Jones in Bristol

    emails: Had women been consecrated as Bishops, they would have purported to ordain priests, male and female, and no-one would know whose orders were valid and whose weren't. A true Anglican needs to be able to go into any church in the country and know immediately whether the priest is properly ordained in accordance with the doctrine of the Holy Catholic and Universal Church. The consecration of women as Bishops would render this effectively impossible.


    Dr Williams says he hopes the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby can resolve the issue. He adds: "I can only wish the Synod and the archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time."

    1959: Jackie Hunt in North Hykeham, Lincolnshire

    emails: So very sad, no wonder our churches are almost empty

    Archbishop of Canterbury comforts disappointed members of the Synod after the vote

    The Archbishop of Canterbury comforted disappointed members of the Synod after the vote.


    Canon Killwick says "it was a sad thing that the synod was put in this position, which is painful for a lot of people" but the legislation was "flawed". He said among objectors to women bishops for whom concessions were intended "there was not a single person who thought it was adequate".


    Canon Killwick agrees it would be possible for the issue to return during the lifetime of the present General Synod if there were "early talks held between the various parties and a real effort to build a bigger consensus". The legislation could not normally return in the same form, he added, but if it did "it would invite the same result anyway".


    More from Rowan Williams' statement. He adds: "This vote of course isn't the end of the story, this is not an issue that is going to go away. About three quarters of the total membership of Synod voted for this, the dioceses voted for it, there is still the will for this to happen and so what the Church of England now has to do is find a way forward."

    2007: Emily in Leicestershire

    texts: To vote against women in leadership purely on a biblical basis fails to recognise the absolute gift of all God's people, and the presence of Christ in each one of us. I feel deeply sad for those who argue that 21st Century society's advancements, politics and yearning for peace and equality is completely Godless, and favour only ancient traditions of the church and scripture quoted out of context. A sad day.

    2008: Liz in Brighton

    texts: As a woman in a church that believes men and women to be equal but that the bible clearly states headship of the church as male, I am pleased with the result. We must not compromise our beliefs of what the bible says just for the "sake of society".

    2015: Rob in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

    texts: I am disgusted by this decision. I am 40 and have been an Anglican for 40 years. My mother-in-law is a fantastic priest. The best priest I have ever known. This just shows how irrelevant and behind the times the Church of England are. I am considering leaving the church after this ridiculous decision.

    Bishop of Norwich Graham James

    The Bishop of Norwich was among the first to speak to reporters after the vote.

    2023: Clive Mason in Farndon, Cheshire

    texts: This is what happens when undertakings given to objectors on a matter of conscience are watered down merely to be fashionable. Some of us, the laity, believe that the apostolic succession has been preserved.

    Justin Welby about to address the Synod

    The next Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby preparing for his speech in which he urged the synod to "finish the job" and back the measure. But he failed to persuade all of synod.


    A video here of the moment the result of the vote was declared to the General Synod by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu.

    2037: Breaking News

    Lucy Winkett, rector of St James's Piccadilly, was expected to become one of the first women bishops. Writing on the Guardian website, she says the vote result was a "disaster" for the Church.


    Canon Winkett adds: "We are now in for another period of uncertainty and argument, and an incoherence that is impossible to explain or defend. The fact that the vote rejected the legislation by such a small margin is a cause for reflection too."

    2044: John Cooper

    tweets: the current Archbishop of Canterbury looks heartbroken in the videos from today's #synod vote

    2046: Peter Clark in Ipswich

    emails: It is a sad day when the church needs to stick rigidly to one interpretation of Bible script. What those who were against women bishops forget is that 2000 years ago women were treated as inferior in all aspects of life. Jesus treated all equally and the great commission is for all people to spread the word, not just men. Ah well, perhaps one day.


    This is where we are going to leave our live coverage of the women bishops vote. Thank you for joining us. Our Q&A on the debate has just been updated in light of today's developments. And the latest reaction is still being added to our news story.


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