Women bishop row compromise plan fails in synod vote

Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu
Image caption The clerics are trying to mediate between liberals and traditionalists

A bid by two of the Church of England's most senior clerics to avert a split over women bishops has narrowly failed.

A general synod vote went against compromise proposals, offering safeguards for objectors, put by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

They were backed by a majority of the houses of bishops and laity, but not of the House of Clergy, meaning they fell.

The Archbishop of York earlier urged an end to the "spin and propaganda" against the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The two clerics are trying to stop a split over the women bishops issue which divides liberals and traditionalists.

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams had earlier insisted that the concessions did not represent a "loyalty" test to himself and Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York.

"We should both be very disappointed if this was seen as some kind of covert loyalty test. Synod must scrutinise our suggestion in the way it would scrutinise any other," he said.

Before the vote Dr Sentamu told the general synod of the Church of England "enough is enough" over the "general disregard for truth" about Dr Williams.

Dr Sentamu said he was "deeply saddened" that there was not only a "general disregard for the truth, but a rapacious appetite for 'carelessness'."

He said this was "compounded by spin, propaganda and the resort to misleading opinions paraded as fact, regarding a remarkable, gifted and much-maligned Christian leader I call a dear friend and trusted colleague - one Rowan Williams".

Impassioned speeches

The two most senior figures in the Church were urging synod members to support a last-ditch compromise deal aimed at avoiding a split over the introduction of women bishops.

They proposed that a female bishop would have full authority in her diocese but "in practice refrain from exercising" certain functions in a parish which objected to her.

A "complementary bishop" would have independent powers, and the powers of the two bishops would be "co-ordinate".

Some 216 members voted in favour of the archbishops' proposals, and 191 against. But the result in the House of Clergy was 90 against and 85 in favour, with five abstentions.

Under the rules, the proposals were lost as they failed to achieve a majority in each of the houses.

Impassioned speeches were made both in favour and against the proposals.

Gay bishop pressure

The concession would have strengthened the legal position of male bishops ministering in dioceses where parishes objected to women bishops.

But pro-women's ordination campaigners had claimed they could lead to a "two-track episcopacy".

The Venerable Christine Allsopp, Archdeacon of Northampton, told the synod she was "dismayed" by the compromise being put.

"We recognise their good intentions in trying to help us all to hold together but I do not believe that this is good news, I do not believe that this will deliver and it is certainly not good news for women clergy," she said.

The general synod also voted against an amendment that proposed three new dioceses to cater for objectors to women bishops.

Also proposed in the rejected amendment was the idea that male bishops appointed to minister in these dioceses would declare that they would not participate in the consecration of a woman bishop or priest.

Dr Williams is also under pressure after the Crown Nominations Commission blocked the appointment of the openly gay Dean of St Albans, the Very Rev Jeffrey John, as the new Bishop of Southwark.

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