Months of frantic lobbying expected as women bishops debate is temporarily stayed by Church of England


Supporters and opponents of women bishops are gearing up for months of frantic lobbying as a potentially historic vote which might have approved legislation today was temporarily stayed following an impassioned debate on the crucial issue.

The decision to postpone the key legislation until November is a bitter-sweet victory for those who wish to see the church's final glass ceiling shattered but were almost on the verge of having to vote against the very issue they had been pushing for over the last two decades.

Many felt unable to approve the legislation after the church's House of Bishops – led by the Archbishop of Canterbury – tabled a last minute amendment which provided stronger safeguards for those who are theologically opposed to female leadership. Those who wanted to see women bishops become a reality suddenly felt the wording would continue to enshrine gender discrimination within the church. Instead they called on supporters to opt for an adjournment in the hope that it will pile pressure on senior clergy to abandon – or significantly reword – the offending amendments.

By delaying a vote on the proposals they have hit the ball firmly back into the court of the House of Bishops who now face the unenviable task of finding a form of legislation which appeals to both sides of what has become a bitter divide.

The House of Bishops will meet in September with the newly worded legislation expected to return to synod in November.

The postponement is a considerable embarrassment for Dr Williams and the senior clerics who backed the last-minute safeguards. The bishops had hoped that the amendments would avoid the prospect of conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics walking out unless they are given guarantees that they will not have to serve under a woman – or a man who has ordained women.

But even the dissenters looked set to vote against the proposals because in their eyes the safeguards did not go far enough. The impasse left the Church of England confronting the real possibility of women bishops legislation stumbling at the final hurdle.

In an impassioned mea culpa, Dr Williams today admitted that the bishops' attempts to find a compromise had clearly failed.

“When there is a reaction of real hurt and offence in the church at large, Christians and Christian pastors particularly cannot afford to ignore it,” he told members of the church's general synod in York. “The bishops will be aware that they underrated the depth of that sense of hurt and offence. And if other bishops feel as I do they will need to examine themselves and feel appropriate penitence that they did not recognise how difficult that was going to be.”

But he warned that adjourning the issue would be “no panacea”. Instead, he argued, it would give the church “a chance to lower the temperature” on an issue that had caused deep upset.

Throughout the two hour debate, impassioned views were heard from all sides of the divide.

Celia Thomson, Canon Pastor of Gloucester cathedral, warned that the church's reputation was being damaged by its inability to push ahead with women bishops. “Never in my experience has the church been so out of step with the good news and of the people of this country,” she said.

But Lorna Ashworth, a conservative evangelical from Chichester who is opposed to women bishops, appealed to Anglicans to find a suitable opt out for people like her. “There is not just one group of women in this church with one voice,” she said. “This liberated, God fearing, Jesus loving, conservative evangelical wants to remain within the Church of England.”

The Church's inability to pass women bishops legislation was also described as a "train crash" by senior Tory MP. Sir Tony Baldry, who represents the church in the House of Commons, said any failure of the legislation could damage the church's position in the house of Lords. "If you have a train crash this afternoon, all I am saying is that my task of maintaining bishops in a mainly elected second chamber is going to be infinitely more difficult, if not impossible."

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Harry Redknapp. Mark Hughes and Ryan Shawcross
footballNews and updates as Queens Park Rangers host the Potters
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam