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Critical Mass – How a minority could block the consecration of female bishops

From Civitas

On 20th November 2012 a majority of the General Synod of the Church of England voted to permit women to be consecrated as bishops. The measure still failed, because a change that big needed a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses : laity, clergy and bishops. The point of disagreement was not whether any women could become bishops, but how strong the protection needed to be for the minority that disagreed.

The decision brought disappointment for many in the church, but one thing it should not be called is men versus women. Only the laity delivered a majority of less than two thirds. All Church of England bishops are male and they voted overwhelmingly for the measure. It was 44 to 3, with 2 abstentions. The House of Clergy has approximately two men to each woman. Almost by definition, those voting against would be men. Women in the house of clergy would not be expected to oppose their own ordination. Still two of of the house, that is, all the women and most of the men, voted in favour. The sticking point was the laity. Church of England congregations have typically twice as many women as men. In the Synod intake of 2010, numbers of male and female laity are approximately equal. Only where women had the strongest voice could a blocking minority be found. Of 206 votes in the House of Laity it needed 69 to defeat the measure. 74 voted against.

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