A long overdue decision by Synod

Next week should be a time of great rejoicing in the Church of England. After decades of debate and unnecessary delay women will be admitted to all orders of ministry in the Church of England. All signs are that a sufficient number of waverers in the House of Laity have been persuaded to back the new and fairer measure. According to reports at least six laity who voted against are now planning to vote in favour. They are all now persuaded that the legislation is trustworthy and effective in comparison to its predecessor. It must be said that we could have been at this point much earlier. For the past decade the House of Bishops has failed to provide the sort of leadership that this whole process needed. And it was only when the women bishops legislation was rejected nearly two years ago that we have finally had some leadership on the issue. I am generally sceptical about the value of listening processes and mediation. But it has to be said that sense of purpose displayed by Archbishop Justin Welby since he was appointed has been admirable. He has managed to bring some clarity to the decision-making and enabled us all to put aside traditional enmities for the sake of mission and moving on. The fact is that the last package of legislation was not just imperfect, it was a complete and utter mess. It left no meaningful provision for conservatives and traditionalists and the fact that a code of practice was unwritten at the time of the vote made the acceptance of the legislation a complete non-starter. The House of Laity was roundly condemned for the fact that it voted down the legislation. Yet they were absolutely right to do so. There may be other reasons why a wholesale reform of General Synod and its electoral system is necessary but on that fateful day in November 2012 those six members in the House of Laity acted wisely and justly. We now have legislation that is widely supported and which will make women feel valued in their new ministry and traditionalists secure in their conscience.


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