'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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map