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21 November 2012

Call for unity following women bishops veto

Call for unity following women bishops veto

In the aftermath of yesterday's veto on women bishops, the Evangelical Alliance is calling for the Church to remain united.

Media reports have described yesterday's surprise result in the Church of England's General Synod as "suicide" and "a national embarrassment", with suggestions that this will plunge the national church into crisis.

Dr Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, spoke yesterday of his disappointment at the outcome; and Rt Rev Justin Welby, the Bishop of Durham, who replaces Dr Williams at the end of the year is also a strong supporter of women bishops.

The General Synod has already approved women bishops in principle, but yesterday's vote was on the technicalities of how this would be implemented and how provision would be made for those who disagree.

It needed a two thirds majority in each of the three houses – the bishops, clergy and laity – to pass. But it was lost by just six votes in the house of laity, having been passed comfortably by bishops and clergy.

Speaking at the opening of Synod this morning, Dr Williams said: "Whatever decision was made yesterday, today was always going to be a difficult day.

"There would have been, whatever decision was made, people feeling that their presence and their significance in the Church was in some sense put into question.

"There will be people feeling profoundly vulnerable, unwanted and unsure, and that means that the priority for today for all of us is to attend to one another in the light of that recognition, that is to give one another the care that we need, and whatever else we do today, and think today and say today, I hope that that is what we will be able to offer one another."

Rt Rev Graham James, the Bishop of Norwich, said yesterday that there was now an "urgent task to find a fresh way forward to which so many of those who were opposed have pledged themselves".

Speaking to journalists immediately after the vote, Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, said he was "lost for words". "I'm hugely disappointed. I think this is going to be very hard for people in the wider world to understand. I'm someone who does believe that there needs to be a place for people in the Church who disagree as well as agree. We as a body believe this could have worked, but we've obviously failed to convince enough lay people on the Synod of this.

"It's bad news for the Church and for the world. I feel enormously sorry for Archbishop Rowan that he has not been supported by the lay people of the Synod.

"But the house of bishops has never been more united on this. And that gives me hope that we will rally. And we will move forward and we will find a way of doing this that carries people with us."

Speaking today, Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, said: "It's at times like this that the unity of the Church is most tested – the times when there are issues upon which we profoundly disagree.

"But it's at these times that we need to remain one body, brothers and sisters in Christ, committed to our calling to transform our communities with the good news of Jesus Christ. We pray for the unity of the Church at this time, and for those men and women called to ministry in the Church of England.

"We pray for those who have been left deeply disappointed by yesterday's decision. We pray that they will be comforted, but that they will receive the strength and the wisdom to continue the work they are doing.

"We also call on the Christian community both inside and outside the Anglican Communion to pray that a way forward can be found which will not require years of uncertainty. But above all we pray that God's will be done in this nation and in His Church, to His glory.

"There is a diversity of opinion within the evangelical Church about women bishops. But in that diversity, we must still pursue a unity which respects our differences and disagrees agreeably."