Women bishops are the first big test for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Those of us in the Church of England not sweatily testing cheap deodorants on the floor of Synod in York this weekend pray Welby can finally resolve this matter

Share

Temperatures are set to rise in York this weekend, as they are in the rest of the country, but members of the Church of England’s General Synod are unlikely to be getting their kit off. Instead, they will be meeting in their customary buttoned-up manner in the university’s unprepossessing theatre – all clerical collars and geography teachers’ checked sleeveless shirts revealing pale forearms – to argue yet again what to do about these irritating women priests who feel that they may be ready to be bishops. Bewildered, the outside world will stare down at them from the gallery like Yorkshire farmers at a cattle market.

Or perhaps it’s more like a debate in the parliament of Lilliput, the kind of eternal wrangle of a cut-off people, witnessed by the bemused Gulliver, where nothing matters any more other than the internalised priorities of its participants. As writers less original than Jonathan Swift observe, you couldn’t make it up. At last year’s brace of Synods, first the pro-women crowd in July refused to let legislation progress because it made too much provision for those who “in conscience” couldn’t accept their episcopal authority. Then in November, an anti-women ginger group, comprising an uneasy alliance of common conservative evangelicals and posh Anglo-Catholics, holed the proposal below the waterline by six votes in the House of Laity.

The richest of ironies is that, if the motion for women bishops is carried this time, both sides are losers – the female-bishop lobby will look, in its apparent lack of sympathy for those who take a different view, as if only churchwomen bleed and the traditionalists will get less by way of provision than if they’d gone with the tide last November.

Of course, the proposal may get chucked out again exactly for that last reason. And to that extent this is the first real and huge test for the new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. With his slightly scary gaunt features and rimless spectacles, he carries a weight of expectation he will need all his oil-industry corporate experience, his eclecticism of church traditions and his skills in conflict-resolution in Africa to get a sensible result. In short, will he manage to knock pointy and round heads together sufficiently hard?

Dear God, those of us in the Church of England not sweatily testing cheap deodorants on the floor of Synod in York this weekend hope and pray that he can. Because our Church is bigger and better than this snitty, sub-Apprentice point-scoring. And we long for our Church to be judged again for what it does for and what it says to its non-members, rather than for what it argues among its own.

On Sunday night, there will be a debate on welfare reform, about how the least among us may be paying for the economic mistakes of our financial elite. It will be entirely eclipsed by the following morning’s debate on the chromosomal structure of bishoprics. That says it all, really.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I was a Woman Against Feminism too

Siobhan Norton
A screengrab taken on July 13, 2014 from a video released by the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, showing the leader of the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau  

Boko Haram is a vicious sideshow - Nigeria's self-serving elite is the real culprit

Kevin Watkins
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn