Church of England in crisis: Archbishop of Canterbury attacks members for voting against women bishops

Dr Rowan Williams admitted that the Church of England loses credibility every day it fails to approve women bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on those within his own church who voted down legislation to approve women bishops accusing them of being “unrealistic”.

In an impassioned speech at the General Synod this morning that vividly illustrates the depth of the current crisis facing his organisation, Dr Rowan Williams admitted that the Church of England loses credibility every day it fails to approve women bishops.

During yesterday's vote the Archbishop, who leaves his post at the end of the year, pleaded with members to approve legislation which would have allowed women to reach the top posts in the church.

The bill needed to pass by a two thirds majority in the three houses that make up synod. Although 74% of members voted in favour of the legislation, it was dramatically defeated by six votes in the house of laity.

Speaking in the aftermath of that decision this morning, Dr Williams said the church risked being seen as “willfully blind” to the demands from wider British society that it must do away with institutional and theological sexism.

“We have, to put it very bluntly, a lot of explaining to do,” he told the General Synod. “Whatever the motivation for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.”

He added: ”We have some explaining to do, we have as a result of yesterday undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society.“

He called on both sides of the theological divide to keep up the momentum and continue trying to find a way through an issue which has come to dominate the Church for much of the last decade.

“After all the effort that’s gone into this process over the last few years, after the intense frustration that has been experienced in recent years… it would be tempting to conclude that it’s too difficult, that perhaps the issue should be parked for a while,” he said. “I do not believe that is possible because of… the sense of credibility in the wider society. Every day that we fail to resolve this to our satisfaction…is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish.”

The majority of Anglicans are strongly in favour of women bishops with 42 out of 44 of England's dioceses approving the legislation earlier this year. Yet and small but vocal group of conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are opposed to female headship for a variety of theological reasons. They have lobbied for provisions which would allow them to be catered for by a male bishop – something the pro-women lobby believes would create a two-tier bishop system.

The legislation which was voted down yesterday would have provided a “code of practice” for dissenters that would have placed a legal obligation on bishops to cater to those parishes who cannot accept a woman. But the dissenters felt this did not go far enough and managed to persuade enough people in the house of laity to vote against the legislation.

But Dr Williams condemned the “unrealism” of those who had voted the legislation down out of the hope they could find a better solution, Williams said: “The idea that there is a readily available formula just around the corner is in my view an illusion. There is no short cut here; there is no simple God-given, dare I say, solution to a problem which brings people’s deepest convictions into conflict in the way in which they have come into conflict in the Synod and previously.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Sport
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
sport
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
Sport
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
News
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral