The Church of England has dominated much of the media over the last few days with the failure of the plan to authorise Women Bishops. The actual debate wasn't about the principle, but the mechanism for the change. Clearly, the majority of the Church of England wants this to happen but two minority groups – traditional catholics and conservative evangelicals – felt that the provisions that had been made for them were too weak and consequently they voted to stop the process.
I am a member of General Synod, elected by the clergy of Sheffield Diocese. I voted for the legislation, although I have been very concerned over the needs of the traditionalist minorities. I am deeply saddened over the result. I really did believe that the time was right for the Church to proceed to make women bishops. I’m convinced that they have so much to offer the church and that there are many excellent candidates among the female clergy. I am very aware that many female clergy feel deeply let down or even betrayed by what has happened. Additionally, it is clear that the last few days have been a public relations disaster for the Church. Yet, the whole process was carried out properly and those who voted against are properly elected laity – the process wasn't halted by clerics.
Over the next few months I hope that there will be reconciliation meetings and some form of compromise arrived at. However, I am very aware that both sides of this dispute are people of principle and that entrenched positions will be hard to move. To be honest, I fear that no compromise will be found and that the next synod elections in 2015 will be deeply contentious. Depending upon the result of this will be the possibility of one group or another feeling pushed out or unable in principle to remain in the Church.
All of this is deeply troubling. The Church of England is literally a broad church and I rejoice in this. Sadly, I think that it is unlikely to remain so. Christians are encouraged to live in love and harmony, but they are also taught to take a stand of matters of principle. So Anglicans are caught between a rock and a hard place.
Somewhere in all of this, God’s love is to be found. But, to be brutally honest, it is proving to be rather difficult to see it at the moment.