Women bishops vote a 'grim day', says Justin Welby

Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby The Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby, urged a 'yes' vote at the general synod

The next Archbishop of Canterbury has called the rejection of women bishops a "very grim day", as bishops prepare for an emergency meeting on the issue.

The ordination of women bishops in the Church of England was narrowly rejected by its ruling general synod on Tuesday.

The Rt Rev Justin Welby, who takes over the Church's top role next year, said the lost vote was hard "most of all for women priests and supporters".

Critics had said the change would not bring unity to the Church.

The proposed legislation paving the way for women bishops needed to gain two-thirds majority support in each of the synod's three houses - bishops, clergy and laity - but fell short by six votes in the House of Laity.

The result was greeted with emotion, with some supporters seen crying.

Bishop Welby, the current Bishop of Durham and a supporter of women bishops, tweeted overnight: "Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God."

Rowan Williams: "I'm feeling very much for women in ministry in the Church of England"

The outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Rowan Williams, who will give his farewell address later, spoke of his "deep personal sadness" after the vote.

He said: "Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and... it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the case."

The House of Bishops will meet from 08:30 GMT to "consider the consequences of the vote", the Church's media office said.

The general synod's voting requirements meant that although 324 members voted to approve the proposed legislation and 122 voted to reject it, it was not passed.

The House of Laity is the largest element of the general synod and is made up of lay members of the Church elected by its 44 dioceses.

The votes were 44 for and three against with two abstentions in the House of Bishops, 148 for and 45 against in the House of Clergy, and 132 for and 74 against in the House of Laity.


The first challenge for Church leaders will be how to deal with the fall-out from this vote. Already some in the parishes are describing this as one of the Church's blackest days.

The damage will include a hammering in the media. The outside world will find the Church's continued inability to push this issue forward mystifying - especially as in so many other countries in the Anglican communion there are already many women bishops.

There will be many questions too about the Church's system of democracy where major change has to be agreed by two-thirds majorities amongst bishops, clergy and the laity.

The vote was only lost by a handful of votes amongst lay members, which means the vast majority of Anglicans are in favour and will feel deeply disappointed.

The next Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will need all his legendary mediation skills to navigate a way forward and to find new legislation which accommodates more traditionalists without then alienating the liberal wing of the Church.

Controversy had centred on the provisions for parishes opposed to women bishops to request supervision by a stand-in male bishop.

Christina Rees, a synod member who has spent 20 years campaigning for women bishops, said: "It feels as if the House of Laity betrayed the entire Church of England last night.

"And I think basically that the people, the sort of extremes in our Church - the very conservative evangelicals and very traditionalist Anglo-Catholics - have no idea how this will be read by most people."

She said she thought that, to most people, "this just looks like blatant discrimination".

Equalities minister Maria Miller said the vote outcome was "very disappointing", and showed that the Church was "behind the times", sources said.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Right Reverend Graham James, said those Church members who were in favour of women bishops, but who had voted against the move because of concerns over the provisions for traditionalist parishes, were central to finding a solution.

"There's a very big challenge, I think, to those who voted against but actually pledged themselves to see in what way they could move forward so that women can be bishops in the Church of England," he said.

"There's a very big responsibility on them and upon the bishops in their leadership to bring this into effect as soon as possible."

The Catholic Group on the General Synod, which backed a "no" vote, said in a statement: "We regret the synod was put in the position whereby 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."

It called on the House of Bishops to reconvene the talks started in the summer between representatives of different groups, chaired by Bishop Welby.

Zoe Ham, Church Society: "I am happy that the legislation in its form today has been rejected"

The Rev Prebendary Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical grouping Reform, which also recommended a "no" vote, said: "My overall conclusion is that it is very good news for the Church of England.

"We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness."

In New Zealand, where women have been ordained as bishops for decades, the Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Victoria Matthews, described the decision as a "product of fear".

"I have to admit I was gutted by the announcement. I would describe it as more than disappointing. As someone who is a woman in leadership and someone who dearly loves the Anglican communion, it was quite depressing."


More on This Story

Women bishops

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    All this shows is the COE is un democratic and sexually discriminating!
    It has no place in our society!

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    and the wonder why we dont believe.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    How ridiculous the House of Laity can over rule the Bishops and Clergy. They need to get their 'houses' in (the right) order.

    And yes Christina Rees I imagine like me most of us do think this "just looks like blatant discrimination".

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    i thought Men were stupid enough to belive in religion but now seeing women whioning over who gets to represent this propaganda its like watching the world go downhill once again...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Ultimately, the church is supposedly founded on the rules of an omnipresent sky-god.
    If people don't like those rules then perhaps this religion is not for them.
    Why not start your own religion with it's own set of rules dictated by your own 'god/gods'?
    There would be exactly the same validity/evidence and lets be honest that's exactly how the church of England came about in the first place

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    #16, it's funny you should say that, marriage is a non-church issue and has existed long before Christianity existed and will exist long after, yet you seem to have a strong opinion on whether gay people should marry!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    @40 Paragonofapathy
    "Any democratic process where the side with substantially lesser votes can win?" Were you talking about the Church of England synod or the Labour party leadership election?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Sexism and misogny, in modern day religion?


    Love thy neighbour, but not if your neighbour happens to have breasts!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Surely the Synod has to now review the voting process - any "democratic" process where the side with substantially lesser votes can win is flawed and inherintly un-democratic.

    In my opinion change the voting rules, then hold the ballot again. No real need to change the legislation from its current form.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Virtually every religeon has some form of discrimination in them, whether it be homophobia, sexism etc.

    Just goes to show what an outdated and ridiculous concept this whole thing is. Time we all woke up and stopped leading our lives according to imaginary friends and a big magic man living in the sky.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Whether we like the result or not; both sides, after much soul searching, voted for what they thought was RIGHT!
    Maybe the quick critics on this site should take time to research WHY people (men AND women on both sides) voted as they did

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    Bizzare, like watching a bunch of Do Do birds deciding that nesting in a volcano is a pretty cool idea. I suppose it doesnt really matter anyway, but it is kind of entertaining to observe just how badly they can get it wrong. Oh well I dont suppose much should be expected from a group whose foundations are based on stupidity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I hope someone has told David Attenborough. I'm sure I once heard him say that dinosaurs are extinct!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Is this going to be like Ireland and EU referenda? Keep voting on the issue until they get the 'right' result?

    And by 'modernising' people think the Church will become more popular? Just like the smoking ban brought all those metro-centric non-smokers into pubs?

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    It does seem wrong to me that a minority can block the votes of the majority. What is wrong with a simple majority?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    This sad vote puts the church at even great variance with the people and the vast majority of the latter will be asking 'Who cares?'

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    3 Minutes ago

    The world has moved on and medieval misogyny has no place in it.
    Are you saying the vote was rigged? If not then accept the result else complain bitterly about it until it is fixed. Otherwise as I said earlier - if you don't want the answer don't ask the question. Stop bleating and moaning because you didn't get the result you wanted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    So let me get this right. A man made religion, started by a king who wanted to divorce and remarry whenever he felt like it, has no respect for women and treats them as second class citizens.

    Had they not realised the purpose of this mumbo jumbo when they signed up to it?

    And this is news? Wow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    for me its more about the "democratic" process.... ridiculous

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    The church's behaviour on this, and many other matters, is the opposite of what they say they stand for. How hypocritical is that? I recall Richard Curtis saying "If you hurt yourself as a child, who do you run to? Your MOTHER of course".


Page 6 of 8


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.