Laity within the Church of England shocked the rest of the denomination November 20 by rejecting a proposal that would have allowed women to serve as bishops in the UK's official denomination. Following easy passage by both the church's bishops and clergy, the proposal failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed in the House of Laity for passage, reported Religion News Service, falling by a vote of 132-74 in favor of allowing women bishops.
A church statement explained that the rejection means a closed door to female bishops for the foreseeable future. “The consequence of the ‘no’ vote of 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 statement said.
Both Anglican and UK government officials expressed their disappointment in the outcome of the vote, with outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams insisting that it somehow represented a blow to the church's credibility. “Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday,” he said, “whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society.” He added that the vote represented a willful blindness on the part of conservative elements in the church “to some of the trends and priorities of wider society. So we have some explaining to do. We have as a result ... undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society.”
Williams' comments appeared to go as far as suggesting that, given the overwhelming desire for women leaders in the church, perhaps the vote might be overridden. “Every day in which we fail to resolve this to our satisfaction … is a day when our credibility in the public eye is likely to diminish,” said the church head. “We have to take that seriously, however uncomfortable that might be. There is a matter of mission here and we can’t afford to hang about. We can’t … indefinitely go on living, simply theologically, with the anomaly of women priests who can not be considered as bishops.”
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Photo of the Church of England General Synod: AP Images