'Desperately difficult' to keep Church together over women bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury admitted today that it will be “desperately difficult” to keep the Church of England unified in light of its schismatic vote on women bishops.

In a heartfelt appeal for unity after a particularly fraught week, Dr Rowan Williams called on Anglicans to push ahead with the consecration of women bishops despite the fact that a minority of traditionalists, conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics have threatened to leave the church over the issue.

The beleaguered church leader suffered an ignominious defeat on Saturday evening when the general synod – the church's legislative assembly – rejected his personal appeal for a series of safeguards that would have provided a separate class of male-only bishops to administer to those who remain vehemently opposed to female leadership in the church.

The issue has bitterly divided the church but in a speech to today's synod Dr Williams urged conservatives to resist the temptation to make any further attempts to stall legislation in favour of women bishops.

“It’s very tempting at times of stress and difficulty, such as we’ve been through in the last couple of days, to think: “We’ll drop it in the ‘too difficult’ basket”, the 60-year-old archbishop said. “I don’t really think that’s an option.”

His words clearly had an effect on the 484-seat synod which spent the entire day hammering out, often in terse scenes, the finer details of how women bishops will be consecrated.

A last-minute bid by conservatives to temporarily delay the legislation by six months was defeated overwhelmingly. The cause of women bishops will now go to individual dioceses for further debate before returning to the synod for final approval some time in 2012.

Wary of the anger among traditionalists, Dr Williams also appealed to liberals, who smell victory after years of campaigning in favour of women bishops, to be “generous” and accept some sort of arrangement for conscientious objectors who are opposed to female leadership.

“As the votes on Saturday illustrated, we remain as a Synod, it seems, committed by a majority to the desirability to seeing women as bishops for the health and flourishing of the work of God’s Kingdom in this Church and this nation,” Dr Williams said. “We’re also profoundly committed by a majority in the Synod to the maximum generosity that can be consistently and coherently exercised towards the consciences of minorities. We have not yet cracked how to do that.”

Although conservatives have failed to win absolute alternative measures set in stone, the church's legislative assembly has agreed to a clause which will “impose a duty” on any future female bishop to make arrangements for a working male bishop to provide some sort of oversight for conscientious objectors. What form those measures will take has yet to be decided.

As the day wore on, emotions became increasingly fraught, particularly among opponents of women bishops. A debate over the financial compensation of clergy who will lose valuable pensions if they leave the church was particularly tense.

Father David Houlding summed up the feeling of many conservative clergy members who will feel compelled to leave the church if women bishops goes ahead. “There are just scraps left of the table and we are beginning to starve,” he said, his voice cracking. “The door is being slammed in my face.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
people70-year-old was most famous for 'You are So Beautiful'
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballLatest score and Twitter updates
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
The US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
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

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'