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15 July 2014

Alliance general director welcomes women bishops vote

Alliance general director welcomes women bishops vote

The Evangelical Alliance general director has welcomed news that the Church of England voted to appoint women bishops yesterday, but urged unity across the Church despite difference.

In the Alliance's report Life in the church? –part of the 21st Century Evangelicals research series –73 per cent of evangelicals were found to agree that women should hold senior positions in the Church, with 80 per cent agreeing that women should preach or teach.

These figures corroborated the findings of our survey in 2010, which found that of the 17,000 evangelicals who took part in that first survey, 71 per cent thought that women should be eligible for all roles within the Church.

Most of those who took part in the survey attend churches led by men –84 per cent of senior leaders are men and 16 per cent women. Women make up 36 per cent of the leadership of churches that have a leadership team.

In the vote at the General Synod in York yesterday, the House of Laity went 152 in favour, 45 against, with five abstentions. In the House of Bishops, 37 were in favour, two against, and there was one abstention. The House of Clergy vote saw 162 in favour, 25 against and four abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "I, together with the vast majority of evangelical Christians, will be celebrating the decision made by Synod to appoint women to the role of bishops in the Church of England. This process has been long and at times painful and while some will continue to carry concerns, I personally look forward to welcoming the first female bishop in England following in the steps of Pat Storey, former board member of the Evangelical Alliance, who was recently appointed Bishop of Meath and Kildare in the Church of Ireland.

"A significant proportion of Evangelical Alliance members are Anglican and while recognising this was entirely a matter for the Church of England, we stand alongide many members who have prayed for this day and we also continue to pray for unity among those who might disagree."

Addressing Synod yesterday, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said: "Today this legislation allows us to move forward together, all of us as faithful Anglican Christians and all of us committed to each other's flourishing in the life of the church. We must mean it, not just in what we say but in how we now live and work together in the months and years ahead. That is as true of those who find this difficult to accept as it is for those of us who rejoice in it. An independent process to hold us to account for the promises we have made to each other allows us to take the risks necessary to build trust."

He added: "Even if at times, in the past, we have been overwhelmed by the tortuous path we have taken, we must not understate the significance of what we can do now. Today we can start on a challenging and adventurous journey to embrace a radical new way of being the church: good and loving disagreement amidst the seeking of truth in all our fallibility; a potential gift to a world driven by overconfident certainties into bitter and divisive conflict.

"Jesus invites us to radical belonging to one another, so that all the world will know we are his disciples –not that we are perfect, but that we love one another as he has loved us."

Read reactions on the women bishops vote from five female leaders in the Church of England