From The Tablet
The media has depicted the Church of England as being on the verge of collapse because of the rejection of a General Synod Measure permitting the appointment of women as bishops. It was seen as a triumph of obscurantism over progress, a refusal to recognise the right of women to equal treatment with men. But there is more to it than that.
Strong feelings militate against compromise, but a willingness to compromise could have produced a better outcome. It still could, once tempers cool. No one’s interests are served by the Church of England inflicting damage on itself over this issue. Nor is it simply true to say that the Church has turned its back on women bishops. It has turned its back on one way of achieving them, because the proposed route did not go far enough towards safeguarding the rights of the opposing minority.
The rejected measure has had a long and tortuous history. It began as part of the unfinished business of 1992, when the synod approved the ordination of women as priests. From within a Catholic theology of priesthood, the decision applied logically to women bishops as much as to women priests. It was inevitable that the issue of women bishops would have to be faced, particularly as there are now more women coming forward for ordination than men. Throughout, the key questions have been about how to deal with those priests and parishes who were adamantly opposed to female ordination. Space was made for them – the so-called “flying bishops” solution – though not enough for some.
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