The Church of England rejected a move to allow women bishops in a move that shocked both sides of a years-long debate, who expected the motion to be approved.
The vote will preserve the church’s status as one of the last places women cannot be in the United Kingdom, reports The Washington Post.
Many of the church’s three-tiered General Synod (bishops, clergy, and laity) were surprised that the House of Laity didn’t give a two-thirds majority in favor of women bishops after. The vote passed easily between the bishops and clergy, but failed by just five votes, 132-74. A church statement issued after the vote failed stated:
“The consequence of the ‘no’ vote of terminating any further consideration of the draft legislation 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.”
Some members, like Bishop Graham James of Norwich, were perplexed by the vote. Forty-two out of 44 dioceses approved the move and more than three-quarters of local diocesan synods were in favor of it as well. James stated, “There will be many who wonder why the General Synod expressed its mind so differently.”
The vote by the House of Laity came after nine hours of debate and months of lobbying on both sides. The rejection is likely seen as a slap to Rowan Williams, the outgoing archbishop of Canterbury, as well as his successor, Justin Welby. Both men urged the General Synod to approve the vote 18 years after the church opened the priesthood to women.
Opposition was from two groups who claimed allowing women to hold a leadership post over men is unbiblical, adding that the proposal did not contain enough safeguards to protect parishes or priests who refused to accept a woman bishop.
Yahoo! News notes that Christina Rees, a Synod member and former chair of the advocacy group Women and the Church, stated:
“Senior women clergy must feel despondent and most bishops and most clergy, male or female, feel hugely sad and, worse than sad, embarrassed and angry. Women bishops will come, but this is an unnecessary and an unholy delay.”
Women are already serving as Anglican bishops in other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Anglican churches in many developing countries, however, oppose any female clergy and are working to shield themselves against reforms like the one proposed on Tuesday.
The Church of England is in the middle, trying to reconcile both the views of reformers and traditionalists. For now, traditionalists have won the vote to block women bishops in the church.