Well, today the General Synod finally voted to make it possible for women to be made bishops. Which means that before too long we should be able to stop talking about “women bishops” and just talk about “bishops”.
Not everyone will be welcoming this development tonight, even if they knew it had to happen. The debate in York lasted nearly five hours and only a few speeches were off the mark (or manipulative).
The bottom line is simply that the Church of England has practised what it preaches and taken the time (lots of it…) to make a decision that keeps people together despite disagreement. It offers a model of how there is an alternative to simply cutting and running when conflict occurs.
My post-vote statement reads as follows:
I’m delighted that the General Synod has today voted in favour of the legislation that will allow women to be consecrated as bishops.
It’s been a long time coming, but that’s because the Church of England has worked hard to hold together those of contrasting views, even when those opposed were in the minority. But the wrestling has paid off and we have upheld our commitment to being a broad church.
With the guiding principles the bishops have set out, we have a process that will both fully support women bishops while providing for the flourishing of those who are still opposed, and we can now move forward in a spirit of reconciliation and trust.
I believe women bishops will have a hugely positive impact on the Church of England, and I look forward to the first consecration.
Real credit goes to the Archbishop of Canterbury who brought in a radically new way of doing Synod business and working the relationships. I am not naive – this must have involved more wrangling and diplomacy than most of us have any idea about. But, he set a new course and made possible what looked utterly impossible only twelve months ago.
The other real credit goes to the Bishop of Rochester who chaired the group that had come up with this process and solution. He exudes calm, reasonable, gracious authority, and I wonder just how vital his personality and skill have been to getting us this far so quickly and effectively.
The Archbishop of York chaired the debate with great skill and lightness of touch.
So, now the hard work begins. We have to make this work. (And we have to be patient while the legalities are worked through until the winter when action might begin to be possible.)
But, for now we can sleep in peace, knowing that today the Church did something remarkable.