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

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot