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Retiring Archbishop Williams expresses sadness over vote

The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of his “deep personal sadness” after the Church of England’s parliamentary body rejected legislation to allow women bishops.

“Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and course it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness that that is not the case,” Dr Rowan Williams told reporters.

“I can only wish the Synod and the [next] Archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time.”

Draft legislation won the required two thirds majority in the House of Bishops and House of Clergy but fell in the House of Laity by six votes.

Across the three Houses, the legislation won over 72% of the votes. In the House of Laity, 64% voted in favour.

The General Synod has already agreed to the principle of women bishops but the legislative process to determine how this will work in practice has now been set back years as new legislation cannot be brought up for discussion again until a new General Synod is elected in several years.

The draft Measure contained a provision for traditionalist parishes that would have allowed them to request alternative oversight by male clergy.

However, they argued in Synod that the provision did not go far enough in meeting their needs and that more time was needed to reach a more acceptable compromise.

The defeat in General Synod comes in spite of majority support in the Diocesan Synods.

The Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Reverend Christopher Lowson, said it was a “very dark day for the Church”.

“This is a very sad day indeed, not just for those of us who support the ministry of women, but for the future of the Church, which might very well be gravely damaged by this,” said Bishop Christopher Lowson.

He said the outcome calls for a “broad review” of how General Synod members are elected.

“The Church has suffered a serious credibility problem while it worked on the legislation, and this is a set-back that could cement the Church’s reputation as being outdated and out-of-touch.”

The bishop plans to meet women clergy from around the diocesethis week to discuss the implications of the vote and “to work with them to re-affirm their ministry in the coming years”.

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