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No vote on women bishops is problem for church says Norwich Bishop

The Anglican General Synod today voted against legislation to approve women bishops by a very small margin and the Bishop of Norwich says this presents a problem for the Church and a fresh way forward is urgently needed.

BishopNorwich370The House of Bishops and the House of Clergy both voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal but the House of Laity voted 132 for and 74 against, just missing the required two-thirds majority. In total 324 members of the General Synod voted to approve the legislation and 122 voted to reject it.
Earlier in the year 42 out of 44 Dioceses, including Norwich, voted in favour of the measure which has been publicly backed by the Bishop of Norwich.
The consequence of the “no” vote means that it will not be possible to introduce draft legislation in the same terms until a new General Synod comes into being in 2015, unless the ‘Group of Six’ (the Archbishops, the Prolocutors and the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity) give permission and report to the Synod why they have done so.
Speaking after the vote, the Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich (pictured above), who is a strong public supporter of women bishops, said:  “A clear majority of the General Synod today voted in favour of the legislation to consecrate women as Bishops. But the bar of approval is set very high in this Synod. Two-thirds of each house has to approve the legislation for it to pass. This ensures the majority is overwhelming.
“The majority in the house of laity was not quite enough. This leaves us with a problem. 42 out of 44 dioceses approved the legislation and more than three quarters of members of diocesan synods voted in favour. There will be many who wonder why the General Synod expressed its mind so differently. 
“The House of Bishops recognises that the Church of England has expressed its mind that women should be consecrated as bishops. There is now an urgent task to find a fresh way forward to which so many of those who were opposed have pledged themselves.

"There is a big responsibility on the bishops in their leadership to bring this into effect as soon as possible. The House of Bishops will be meeting together very early tomorrow morning to take counsel to pray together and to see how we can go forward together as a church," said Bishop Graham.”

Rev Janet Wyer, associate priest of St Peter Mancroft in Norwich, said: "I am a little disappointed by the news from Synod – but it would seem to me that having waited such a long time for women to be ordained as Priests within the Church of England, it will not be so hard to wait a few more years to see the first woman rightly enthroned as a Bishop.

"In the meantime women will continue to serve God, living and spreading the good news and love of Christ as they have always done - working alongside men, sometimes under their authority, but always equal with them in the eyes of our creator God who loves us all just as we are. I suspect the days ahead will not be so easy, but with the grace of God and lots of prayer we'll get through - and Mother Julian said 'All shall be well!'"

Priest in Charge of St Stephen's Church in Norwich, Rev Madeline Light, said: "There will be some women who are very disappointed by the delay in making it possible for women to be ordained bishop in England. I believe it will happen eventually and then everyone will wonder what the fuss was about. However this delay is because the church is still trying to work out the best provision for those who cannot accept the ministry of women in this capacity. When women were ordained priest it was agreed that some parishes could agree never to have a woman lead their congregation. It is a bit more difficult to work out how to make provision for those people who cannot accept women as bishop. the role of the bishop is so much wider it is more difficult to create a separate place for objectors. A plan will emerge eventually."
The House of Bishops of the Church of England will meet at 08.30am on Wednesday morning in emergency session to consider the consequences of the vote. 

Click here to read our previous story on this topic

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