Leading article: Schism might be a better option

Share
Related Topics

Sixteen years after the first women priests were ordained in the Church of England, the bitter controversy about female authority in the church refuses to go away. This weekend it reached a new stage, when the archbishops of Canterbury and York narrowly failed to persuade the General Synod to accept a compromise on women bishops. Could it be time, perhaps, to end the acrimony and accept that the Church of England will have to split?

It is no exaggeration to say that the climate in the Anglican church for a generation and the whole of Rowan Williams's seven-year tenure at Canterbury have been poisoned by the conflict between liberals and traditionalists, of which the role of women is a touchstone. The church is divided nationally, and it is divided even more deeply internationally. In essence, it could be said, there are already two Anglican churches, with the Archbishop of Canterbury striving heroically to hold them together.

Dr Williams's concern to avoid a schism deserves respect, along with the efforts he has personally made to try to prevent it. But he has not been able to resolve the conflict over the elevation of women priests, which has become a defining theme of his tenure. Indeed, it is proof of how little real progress has been made, that the proposed compromise on women bishops replicated in almost every respect the compromise eventually agreed over women priests. A female bishop would have had full authority in her diocese but would "refrain from exercising her functions" in parishes that did not accept her. Opposition came from two sides: from those who oppose women bishops in principle, and from those who feared that women would be second-class bishops in an increasingly two-track church.

Some might argue that the vote this weekend was so narrowly lost that the acceptance of women bishops will be only a matter of time. Yet the truth is that women will be accepted as bishops only if their authority is restricted – which will resolve nothing. And as long as the controversy remains open, the church will be weakened and the authority of its leaders will be compromised as they try to bridge what cannot be bridged.

At root, women's role in the church is a doctrinal issue, and the disagreement is no less principled than other causes of schisms have been in the past. The Archbishops should make common cause with the liberals and regretfully go their own way, in the interests of a more modern, and stronger, Church of England.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions