C of E’s rejection of women bishops makes it ‘a national embarrassment’

THE CHURCH of England yesterday became a “national embarrassment” when its General Synod narrowly failed to pass draft legislation which would have allowed women to become bishops.

Welby looks on as Archbishop Williams is given a comforting hug. Guardian Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

According to this report, the “national embarrassment” remark came from the Bishop of Chelmsford, speaking to religious affairs journalist Andrew Brown. He failed to respond to Brown’s suggestion that it had committed

A long and boring suicide.

Outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, spoke of his “deep personal sadness” after the vote and of his concern for its consequences.

He and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby of Durham, had their eloquent pleas for unity and progress ignored by a hardline minority. The Archbishop elect tweeted afterwards:

Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters.

He called for prayer and:

Collaboration with our healing God.

The Rev Lucy Winkett, rector of St James’ Piccadilly and formerly Canon Precentor at St Paul’s Cathedral, wrote in the Guardian yesterday that the vote was a “disaster” for the church, though one from which she believed it could recover.

Rev Lucy Winkett

It is a matter of shame that millions of women have lived and died as practising Christians while being told from the pulpit that they, as the inheritors of Eve, were responsible for all the sin in the world. It is a matter of shame that in this country women were bridled at the time of the Reformation for daring to speak publicly about their faith. It is unutterably sad that women have lived and died nursing an unfulfilled vocation to serve as priests.

The Rev Canon Rosie Harper, vicar of Great Missenden and chaplain to the Bishop of Buckingham, said during the nine-hour debate that rejecting women bishops would be “the act of a dying Church” and that:

A Church with lower moral standards than the rest of society risks its right to comment on other issues.

Christina Rees added:

The House of Laity has betrayed the Church of England and the whole nation.

Rees is a prominent a lay member of General Synod, a broadcaster and a writer.

Women and the Church (WATCH) described the outcome of the debate and vote as a

Devastating blow for the Church of England.

The Rev Rachel Weir, chair of WATCH, commented:

This is a tragic day for the Church after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise. Despite this disappointing setback, WATCH will continue to campaign for the full acceptance of women’s gifts of leadership in the Church of England’s life.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, and a former C of E diocesan adviser, said:

This failure to embrace a complete episcopal ministry will undoubtedly be seen inside and outside the Church of England as a further ecclesiastical betrayal of women. It is a very sad outcome to twenty years worth of discussion, though it is most unlikely to be the end of the matter.

He continued:

The Church will certainly remove the barriers to consecrating women bishops in the future, but it is causing itself great pain, and damage to all involved (especially women), by allowing a minority to continue to thwart the process in the meantime.

During and after the General Synod debate there was puzzlement expressed by observers and commentators at contradictory arguments used by opponents of women bishops on both the evangelical and catholic wings of the Church.

The Church of England’s post-vote press release noted that the consequence of the “no” vote terminating any further consideration of the draft legislation means that it will not be possible to introduce draft legislation in the same terms until a new General Synod comes into being in 2015.

The Church of England also finds itself more isolated internationally as a result of the Synod vote. Women already serve as Anglican bishops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. South Africa is about to follow suit.

Both the Church of Ireland and the Episcopal Church in Scotland have approved measures permitting women to be bishops, but have yet to appoint them.

Some 17 out of 38 provinces in the 78 million-strong Anglican Communion have now removed obstacles to female episcopacy.

Beyond the walls of the institution the vote produced waves of astonishment and even ridicule, with thousands of condemnatory messages appearing on BBC and newspaper websites.

The head of a leading Anglican mission agency, Mark Russell, tweeted in a personal capacity:

I’m committed to sharing Good News to those outside the church, thanks #synod for making my job more difficult.


50 responses to “C of E’s rejection of women bishops makes it ‘a national embarrassment’”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    As this story now has a thread of its own I’ll repeat what I just said as an OT comment elsewhere. (My apologies to those who may be reading this for the second time!)

    I see that Rev Rod Thomas, right-wing bigot and chairman of the evangelical group Reform, has said of yesterday’s result: “My overall conclusion is that it is very good news for the Church of England. We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness.”

    But then Justin Welby, next Archbishop of Canterbury, you may recall, has tweeted: “Very grim day, most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer & love and co-operate with our healing God.”

    Healing god – is he having a laugh? Could the situation possibly be more divisive for them? If this latest round of shenanigans doesn’t make it crystal clear that the church is all about politics and what humans want, and nothing whatsoever to do with a divine, guiding deity or compassion, I don’t know what does.

  2. Brummie says:

    I for one am delighted with the result! The more splits and divisions in this awful institution the less credible will be their existence.

  3. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Someone made a good point on another thread on another blog about this (I’ve read so many I can’t remember where I saw it now). This means the CofE is institutionally sexist. The CofE has the right to appoint bishops to sit in parliament. This makes parliament institutionally sexist. Way to go CofE. Thanks for giving us another lever to get you disestablished.

  4. The Woggler says:

    I wonder if Mrs Windsor, as female head of the CofE, will have to ratify this decision.

  5. mikespeir says:

    I’m with Brummie. Why should they pretend to be something they’re not? People need to see the CofE for what it is–the stark contrast between delusion and reality.

  6. chrsbol says:

    Does anybody else get pleasure from just sitting back and watching all this bollox on TV etc? It’s like a Monty Python sketch.

  7. barriejohn says:

    The Church of England also finds itself more isolated internationally as a result of the Synod vote. Women already serve as Anglican bishops in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. South Africa is about to follow suit.
    Both the Church of Ireland and the Episcopal Church in Scotland have approved measures permitting women to be bishops, but have yet to appoint them.
    Some 17 out of 38 provinces in the 78 million-strong Anglican Communion have now removed obstacles to female episcopacy.

    Yet the dinosaurs (most of whom oppose the ordination of women on principle anyway) were arguing that the CofE was trying to move “too quickly” (yes!). Rod Thomas (isn’t he a comedian?) says that the Bible forbids women to hold office in the church, so he and his ilk will NEVER support female bishops. No surprise to me that it was the laity that scuppered these plans either, as they are very conservative, live in an idyllic past, and are ALWAYS opposed to change.

  8. Broga says:

    Good point, The Woggler, about Mrs Windsor being head of the C.of E. I think she is busy at the moment getting ready to spend more tax money next year celebrating the 60 years on non purposeful activity since she was crowned. She has an insatiable appetite for applause regardless of any discernible reason as to why it should be lavished on her. But I digress.

    AgentCormac: I heard that weasly (sorry weasles) Rod Thomas this morning. I was so enjoying the teeth gnashing I listened to the lot. Dear old Rowan, legging it for the exit before the train hit the buffers, had prayed before the vote but it seems God didn’t listen. And if he won’t listen to the head honcho of the C.of E. why should he listen to anyone? I also heard one of weasley Rod’s supporters using weasle words to say, “We all want women bishops but we object to the detail. The rights of the evangelical and Anglo Catholic minority must be protected.” Small tail waving a big dog that one.

    The C.of E. have now three major “spiritual crimes”, amongst others, for which they should be held accountable. First, they are bankrupting and making homeless people who have the misfortune to live near a church and, via anachronistic legislation, money is being extorted from these people.

    Second: They betray even minimum aspirations to democracy by having 26 expense claiming, legislation interfering, bishops in the House of Lords.

    Third: They offend the minum principles of equality by the recent anti women decision.

    What happened yesterday was farcical. While the rest of the country, and many other countries, embrace equality the gutless C.of E. allows a bunch of unprincipled bigots to say equality is aginst biblical truth. What irritates me is that interviewers never confront them with so many other absurd “biblical truths” and ask why they are not imposing them. Should be interesting times ahead for new boy Justin Welby and the spectating masses.

  9. Daz says:

    On the Radio 2 news, just now, they reported that Rowan Williams said (I’m paraphrasing, but this was the jist of it), that “regardless of theology, they’ve made themselves look out of touch.” But if he’s willing to let his theological beliefs slide in an effort to appear popular (populist?), what the bloody hell is the point of his Biblically based values?

  10. The Woggler says:

    At least the CofE has been prepared to talk about the possibility of female Bishops Can you imagine such discussions in Ratzinger World?

  11. barriejohn says:

    Even better, really:

  12. David Anderson says:

    For me, I don’t give a flying whatsit what they call themselves. They are just titles to make the gulible think that the bearers of such titles have some sort of special knowledge or insight that isn’t available to others and I refuse to use them. It used to piss me off no end when Hitch refered to Ratface as “His Holiness”.

    It is still a mystery to me why women should want to be part of an organization that so obviously despises them. Ditto LGBT people.

  13. David Anderson says:

    Here is a homeless “L”. Please place where it belongs.

  14. AgentCormac says:

    This from the BBC News website just now:
    ‘A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister thought there should be women bishops and was disappointed at the result of the vote, but that it was “a matter for the Church to decide”.’

    Can you think of any other institution that would be allowed to get away with wilfully debarring women, regardless of ability or qualification, from senior positions without there being any redress whatsoever to Law, and with the prime minister publicly admitting that said institution is actually above the equality laws to which everyone else must adhere?

    While the archaic C. of E. really is doing a great job of tearing itself to pieces, it still enjoys privileges that beggar belief and that stripping from it as quickly as possible.

  15. barriejohn says:

    DA: Religious belief taps into very deep human feelings. There is no logic to their loyalty, but as an ex-Christian I can understand it. The following article is correct: this vote sounds the death knell for any moves to change church attitudes towards same-sex marriage. The “traditionalists” have won an enormous victory.

  16. Broga says:

    @David Anderson: I see that Ratzo is publishing a book saying that much of what is believed about Christmas is untrue. And Rowan Williams is throwing in his tuppence worth. No shepherds, no wise men, no guiding star, no Christmas carols, no angels and no animals in the stable. Even the date of the birth is wrong. You have to wonder what the world is coming to with this kind of destruction of these Christmas truths coming from the top holy men.

    Ratzo does confirm that Mary was a virgin until God impregnated her. Quite how I have never been able to imagine. Did God and Mary have carnal relations? Did Mary and God have orgasms? What were the practical details? This is where we need Ken to supply some enlightenment.

    On the demeaning of women issue by the C. of E. there were some very irate women clergy venting their feelings. Some would not have been out of place in this parish. Maybe we could have a few here to share the spiritual burdens with Ken. Probably not the woman I heard interviewed who said when she emerged after the cataclysm that it was raining. She then added that she thought it wasn’t rain she felt but “God’s tears.” Best not have her. We must maintain some standards even for clergy.

  17. James B says:

    Perhaps the spurned women bishops could form a new religion based upon the teachings of JK Rowling. The fiction she produces is much better written, more plausible and a damn sight more entertaining than that of the Bronze Age Middle Eastern goat herders

  18. barriejohn says:

    The Mail are gloating today over the results of their latest poll. I am linking to their site, rather than another, so that you can benefit from reading the comments left by the usual bunch of half-wits!

    Marriage is a heterosexual institution. Attacking it for being so is not only stunningly heterophobic, it’s also nasty and hate motivated. (Plus 145)

    It seems that cohabiting mixed couples man/woman may have less rights than gay couples. (Plus 100)

  19. Broga says:

    The prejudice against women, endorsed by the C.of E. are bringing the weevils out of the biscuits. I saw one seriously creepy man interviewed, his slack lidded eyes showed an abnormal amount of white, but that may have been his wide eyed excitement at seeing his God’s will enforced. This character, deeply unctuous, said the pace of change for women bishops must not be hurried. People with shared convictions i.e.his bigots and the rest, must learn to work together. Then his game over pronouncement that put him beyond reason, “What we must follow are God’s commands as conveyed in the bible.”

  20. T says:

    This is the best possible outcome from my point of view. It exposes the c of e for what it really is and brings closer the day we are delivered from its interference. Now we can focus our energy on undermining the evils of islam and catholicism.

  21. David Anderson says:

    Broga; I always thought that God come upon Mary.

    PS. Don’t keep using the “K” word you’ll summon the oracle.

  22. JohnMWhite says:

    “It is a matter of shame that millions of women have lived and died as practising Christians while being told from the pulpit that they, as the inheritors of Eve, were responsible for all the sin in the world. It is a matter of shame that in this country women were bridled at the time of the Reformation for daring to speak publicly about their faith. It is unutterably sad that women have lived and died nursing an unfulfilled vocation to serve as priests.”

    Um… you’re probably following the wrong religion then.

    RE: the Mail crowing about bigots revealing their bigotry in a poll (as if homophobes have any party other than the Tories to even consider voting for) – is it not a tad ironic that there are two stories in the side bar enticing the reader with lesbian antics?

  23. barriejohn says:

    JMW: The MailOnline people are constantly lampooned over that ridiculous sidebar, but seem oblivious!

    …the world of Eton is a world away from real life and gay partnerships are not mainstream but there is a coterie of wealthy gay people especially gay men who want to push this agenda and they are also in government covertly or overtly and with the Tories I suspect that the gay lobby has financed the party and money talks. (Frank)

    He didn’t actually mention Sir Elton John by name, but…

  24. JohnMWhite says:

    I can’t help but sometimes feel their IT department are just endlessly trolling the company and its readers. And I’ve heard much mention of this secret homosexual cabal over the years, and find it interesting that it is seen as sinister if a gay businessman or entertainer gives money to a political cause, but it is courageous and defending the faith for, say, the owner of a bus company to spend millions of his own money to put bigoted leaflets through people’s doors and pressure the government to not even let gays be acknowledged to exist in schools. Not that I’m mentioning Mr. Souter by name or anything.

  25. barriejohn says:

    JMW: Perish the thought. These are principled people with “sincerely held beliefs” acting in the public interest, not shallow opportunists “pushing their agenda”! They really went overboard with their conspiracy theories regarding Leveson recently:

    There seemed to be literally dozens of articles all churning out the same “revelations”.

  26. Stonyground says:

    I am pleased to note that the women bishops issue seems to be getting plenty of attention from the mainstream media, or at least BBC and independent radio news, which are the only MSM outlets that I have been exposed to today. The coverage has been pretty scathing about the institutionally sexist CofE. There have been clips of Rowan Williams wringing his hands.

    One thing that has come to light is that Anglican churches in other parts of the world have women bishops already. I can’t quite get my head around how this works. The way that it appears is that the General Synod has decided that Female bishops are verboten but have no actual power to force foreign Anglicans to toe the line.

    Over at Peter Hearty’s blog, there is a discussion going on about the bishops in the House of Lords. Having a clique of unelected religious nuts in our government is pretty crazy anyway, but now there is an additional reason to want them kicked out. What on earth is a men only club doing in government? Not only unelected but only representing half of the population.

  27. Broga says:

    @Stonyground: I see what you mean by your last sentence but I wonder how many people these House of Lords Bishops really represent. Last time I wrote to my MP (a faith person) he said the bishops were very much in touch with what was going on in their diocese and parishes and therefore represented all of us. He implied they represented me whether I wanted them to or not. They’ve gotta go. This could be a messy little can of worms that has been opened up for them. I’ve signed the letter on Platitude of the Day saying they should be removed from the House of Lords.

  28. Cameron Logan says:

    Why do they want to anyway? Then they would have to mix with these obnoxious old farts!

  29. Broga says:

    @Cameron Logan: I think they want to get a crack at a place in the House of Lords with all those lovely expenses. Just sign in, enjoy the heavily subsidised dining facilities and then bugger off. You don’t have to anything that the common herd would remotely regard as work.

    However, if they occasionally feel like pronouncing on the wickedness of same sex marriage, assisted dying and the great virtue of loading cash on to faith schools and faith communities then this is the place. They also get a chance to wear fancy dress and massage each others egos with endless references to “My Noble Friend.”

    Honestly, Cameron, its a wonderful scam and they don’t even have to be elected. All they have to do is pretend to believe in the Sky Fairy.

  30. Matt Westwood says:

    Put it in perspective. There is nothing in the bible that says women can’t be priests.

    Now shut the fuck up about this piffling pointless heap of shit about which I’m surprised anybody with at least half a brain cell gives a flying fuck.

  31. Angela_K says:

    In a strange way I’m pleased the CofE have rejected the appointment of female Bishops because it is more evidence – for those that need it – of how backward and out of touch these people remain. With any luck some who profess to be christian but never go to church may start to question their religion and abandon it all together. However there will always be the die-hard religious dead-heads for whom an egalitarian church is anathema and not extreme enough for their taste; they are the sort who would, like Ms Widdecombe, leave and join a more extreme cult.

  32. Trevor Blake says:

    The other day I went downtown to buy a lampshade. I passed by Lampshades for Sale, Lampshade Warehouse, Lampshade Express, The Lampshade Store and Lampshades Lampshades Lampshades. Eventually I arrived at my destination, a restaurant called We Only Sell Soup. “How much for a lampshade” I asked. They wouldn’t sell me a lampshade, at any cost! My rights disregarded! I was oppressed!

    There are many enfranchised superstitions that have women clergy. There’s also atheism, having nothing to say about women or men as leaders. To ask for a lampshade at the soup shop strongly suggests these people are not interested in women clergy, but in their being seen as supporting and becoming women clergy. Three cheers for vanity, but a quiet hiss for hypocrisy.

  33. Barry Duke says:

    There’s quite an interesting piece – “Too Good for a Girlie” – written from a Christian perspective by Symon Hill over at Ekklesia. (

    “I respect the fact that some Christians genuinely believe that they can oppose the ordination of women without regarding women as inferior. In a similar way, some believe they can oppose same-sex relationships without being homophobic. I believe that such people are sorely misguided, but they have integrity. Behind them, however, are people of the sort I remember from Oxford, who are without a doubt sexist and homophobic. For such people, twisted theology and shoddy biblical interpretation are little more than a smokescreen for prejudice.

    “If any good things come out of this appalling moment at General Synod, perhaps one of them will be the realisation that the appeasement of sexists and homophobes is impractical as well as immoral.”

  34. Danaher says:

    I don’t get it… Surely the outcome of this vote demonstrates quite clearly that God doesn’t want women bishops. I mean, that’s the way it works, isn’t it?

  35. Broga says:

    @timdanaher: I don’t think it works like that. We have it from the horse’s mouth, well from a female clergyperson whom I saw interviewed on TV, that God wanted women bishops. She said, in a memorably moronic phrase I suspect she had been concocting at length, that the falling rain was “God’s tears”. So according to her the omnipotent, omniscient God wanted women bishops but a rabid group of House of Laity (grandiose bullshit name that) people said, “Forget it God. Get lost. You just can’t have that because we don’t agree with it.”

  36. Stephen Turner says:

    The bad thing about all this is there are much worse things than the CofE out there.

    Justin Welby=Jebusly Twin

  37. AgentCormac says:


    And therein lies the laughable irony of it all – both sides believe they are being guided by god. Ergo, neither of them are.

  38. Stephen Mynett says:

    It could be possible, any reading of the Old Testament would suggest this god of their’s was a schizophrenic.

  39. Tim Danaher says:

    @broga: saw that, and my arse instantly puckered at the glurge that she was spouting. Although not as bad as that member of the laity, Susie Leafe, who was just talking utter, utter shit…

    Here you go… if you can stand it…

  40. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    Latest jesus & mo take on this.

  41. Tim Danaher says:

    Barry – any chance you can edit my post so that my email address isn’t on display? I’ve no idea how that happened…


  42. AgentCormac says:


    That really is a horrible pile of nauseating umska you have linked to there! What an utterly contemptible woman.

  43. Broga says:

    @Tim: Thanks for the Susie Leafe doltishness. I wouldn’t want to have missed this effusion. As usual someone, in this case Susie, produces a series of “certainties” about what God wants. How Susie, even at the furthest margins of her own spiritual vanity, could presume to know the “mind” of the creator (as she would view it) of the universe demonstrates the perversity of thinking in the christionut. These non thinkers make it up as they go along. Susie produced a ripe example here.

  44. Ken says:

    If you look in the NT, you will not find a ‘priesthood’ in the (Anglo-) Catholic sense, nor will you find ‘bishops’ either. Bishop is synonym for elder or pastor of a local congregation. No reverends, no ‘Your Grace’ to be found.

    The NT treats women as being of equal status or value with men, but with differing roles. The only limitation on women is a) not being teachers over men and b) being elders. Christian ministry is a privilege (if you like), not a right. There is a responsibility placed on men that is not placed on women in this particular area, and that’s about it. There is no shortage of room for women (like men) to serve others, rather than aspire to a leadership status, like modern worldly secular management often does. So this is hardly demeaning.

    As for atheists finding this all a bit ridiculous, I largely have to agree. The issue is one of obedience, not ‘finding God’s will’ by democratic voting or worrying about looking relevant to a society that is about as gender or morally confused as it is possible to be.

  45. AgentCormac says:


    If you look at the ravings of one of Britain’s most entertaining christian clowns you will discover that elections, indeed the entire democratic process, is actually all a complete sham as the outcome is, apparently, always pre-ordained by god.

  46. barriejohn says:

    The Church of England’s decision to reject the introduction of women bishops makes it look like “a sect”, a senior Church representative has said.
    Conservative MP Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, told MPs that he was frustrated by the actions of a blocking minority in the synod.
    Tory backbencher Eleanor Laing argued that the Church’s “position as the established church must be called into question” as a result of the vote.