The Church of England Just Voted Yes For Women To Become Bishops

Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA

Photograph: Lynne Cameron/PA

After 20 years of controversy, the Church of England has finally voted yes to allow women to become bishops.

The synod was threatened with parliamentary action if the measure had failed and Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, had prepared contingency plans to dissolve it and hold fresh elections if the vote went the wrong way. However, this crisis was avoided altogether by a change in vote among lay members – a change from 2012, when 74 lay members voted against female bishops. Welby said:

“Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today’s result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.

The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow.

My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all. Today is a time of blessing and gift from God and thus of generosity. It is not winner take all, but in love a time for the family to move on together.” [source]

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Tom Sutcliffe, one of the lay members who changed their minds, said the measure would bring “episcopal femininity” that would be enriching to the church.

The conservative evangelical block remained consistent in their vote against, maintaining that men must never be taught by women. However, many Anglo-Catholics who had once opposed female bishops yielded.

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The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, says:

“This is a momentous day. Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them. To those who ask “what took you so long?” my answer is that every decision has a cost and there will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision. Our answer to the hurting should not be “get over it” but rather “we will not let go until you have blessed us.” We move slowly because we move together. But in moving together we achieve not only what is just but also model what is right. As the African Proverb says: “Whoever walks fast, travels alone. Whoever walks far, walks in the company of others.” [source]

Welby, who championed the proposal, reported that the first female bishop would be chosen before Christmas.

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