IT MAY be mean to kick a fellow when he is retiring, but I do not think you should go down in history as the saviour of the Church of England.

In the early days of the women's ordination campaign we used to hold you up as a model of integrity.

In 1984, for instance, speaking at Synod after the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie - who did not think legislation for women's ordination should go ahead - you spoke boldly in favour of the motion, and said you intended to vote for it. Sensation in the chamber]

It took another six years before Synod decided, with a large majority, to ordain women priests, but that brave independent speech stayed in our minds.

So what happened, your Grace?

In November of last year, when the women had barely stopped rejoicing at being accepted into the priesthood , Synod passed an Act, of which you were the chief spokesman and architect, which ensured that priests who did not countenance women priests could still be appointed to the highest offices in the Church, and that they could teach in the seminaries.

In other words, whole areas of the Church would be permitted to pretend that women priests were a bad dream.

In order that this toy church might exist, you agreed to the appointment of 'flying bishops' who would minister to the disobedient priests. This would save any male priest being 'tainted' by having hands laid on him by a bishop who had laid hands on a woman.

This sexist nonsense was defended with smart rhetoric by you and many others, with sickening remarks about brotherly love, and boasts of the Church's history of compromise.

The Bishop of London invented a clever phrase about 'two integrities', the bishops, meeting alone (without, of course, any woman present), approved, and later we heard with sadness fine theological brains, such as that of the Bishop of Ely, defending the indefensible.

The meeting suggested that the Church of England could not face conflict. One Synod member said that she was unhappy at being asked to vote on a motion that would be illegal in this country in any other context.

But you were very persuasive in debate, suggesting that without the Act of Synod there was a danger of 'sinking the ship'. With obvious reluctance Synod followed your lead.

The image that came to many of our minds was not of a ship but rather of a pantomime horse trying to move in opposite directions at the same time.

Already there are signs that this shameful act is making church life unworkable.

Nice people, I know, don't say 'I told you so', but I am saying it now.

Monica Furlong

(Photograph omitted)