Vote against women bishops –GAFCON reacts

Archbishop Wabukala, Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya and chairman of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates Council, has praised the Church of England for voting against the move to admit women to the episcopate.

In a release immediately after the vote on Tuesday, Archbishop Wabukala stated that the result would turn out to be a positive turning point.

“Although I realise many will be very frustrated that the Church of England’s General Synod failed to pass legislation to admit women to the episcopate by such a narrow margin, I believe that this result will come to be seen as a positive turning point”, he stated.

He expressed joy that the Church of England had differed from the United States which, he said, has “progressively marginalized and excluded those who seek to hold to historic Anglican faith and order in good conscience.”

“The key issue at this stage was the maintenance of proper safeguards for those who as a matter of theological principle could not accept such a fundamental change. I am therefore heartened that the Church of England has stepped aside from following the path of the Episcopal Church of the United States which has progressively marginalised and excluded those who seek to hold to historic Anglican faith and order in good conscience.

“Now that legislative pressure has been removed, it is my prayer that there can be a period of calm reflection in which the biblical understanding of calling, for both men and women, will be prominent,” he stated.

The Church of England had voted to block a proposal seeking to allow women to serve as bishops after a day-long debate on Tuesday at its General Synod.

The two-thirds majority needed to pass the legislation was narrowly missed, meaning that women will not be able to join the highest echelons of the clergy. According to church officials, it will likely be a minimum of five years before a new vote on the issue can be put on the table.

The vote in the House of Laity came down to 132 in favour of women bishops to 74 against, The Associated Press reported. In a separate vote, bishops voted 44 in favor and 3 against, while the rest of the clergy voted 148 in favour verses 45 against – so although most Anglican officials were in favor of the proposal, the crucial two-thirds majority was not met, falling short at 64 percent, or only six votes.

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is retiring in December, was strongly pushing for the ordination of women bishops, in what was seen as his last official petition as head of the Anglican Communion.

“It will shape the character of the Church of England for generations – and I’m not talking only about the decision we shall take, but about the way in which we discuss it and deal with the outcome of it,” Williams said in anticipation of the vote. “A Church that ordains women as priests but not as bishops is stuck with a real anomaly, one which introduces an unclarity into what we are saying about baptism and about the absorption of the Church in the priestly self-giving of Jesus Christ.”

Williams’ successor, Bishop Justin Welby, has also supported the ordination of female bishops, and had expressed hopes that a vote in favor of the change would end decades of internal debate for the church.

Welby said the Church of England needed to show that it could “manage diversity of view without division – diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity.”

“We cannot get trapped into believing this is a zero sum decision where one person’s gain must be another’s loss,” the newly elected archbishop added.

Church officials have revealed that the debate has been the source of much turmoil in the Anglican Communion as of late, and have said that it is unfortunate that there has been so much disagreement and a failure to pave a way forward.

“Whatever the outcome, there is no victory in the coming days. It is a train crash,” said the Rev. Angus MacLeay, who is opposed to the proposal.

Others, like Canon Simon Killwick from Manchester, who also opposed the compromise, said that it was “possible to be in favor of women bishops in principle, but to believe that this was the wrong legislation for introducing women bishops.”

The Church of England first started ordaining women as priests 18 years ago, but even priesthood is still opposed by a minority of clergy who insist that the Bible teaches against the ordination of women – noting that all of Christ’s 12 disciples were men.However, 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 today’s 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.”

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