Sacrifice and compromise in abundance yesterday (Monday 14th July 2014) at the General Synod. Delegates, who had opposed the introduction of women bishops at the fractious 2012 synod, said that for the sake of the church they would agree to female consecration.
The path to yesterday’s historic vote has not been smooth. Female ministry has troubled the church since ordination was first raised in the 1960’s. In 1992 the synod agreed, by juts one vote, to ordain female priests.
Since then there have been turbulent debates, culminating in the 2012 synod, when the church’s House of Laity failed to achieve the two-thirds majority in favour of women bishops.
The dispute has left the church falling behind others in the Anglican Community, infuriated politicians and – allegedly- resulted in a drop of membership. With almost 2,000 of its 7000 stipendiary priest being female, there were also concerns within the church’s leadership that there were insufficient male candidates of the calibre to become bishops.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the approval carried “dangers and uncertainties” but pledged that after the “tortuous path we have taken” the church would ensure that those opposed to women bishops could still flourish within the Anglican Communion.
The long path to equality
1975 General Synod votes that there is “no fundamental objection” to the ordination of women to the priesthood.
1978 A motion to bring forward legislation to remove the barriers to the ordination of women to the priesthood and their consecration as bishops fails at the synod.
1985 The synod votes to allow women to become deacons
1987 First women deacons are ordained in the Church of England
1992 Synod votes to permit women to be ordained into the priesthood. Passed by one vote.
2005 Synod approves a motion to begin the process of removing the legal obstacles to women bishops.
2012 The legislation fails at the synod by only six votes in the House of Laity.
2013 New talks get underway to introduce simpler legislation. Mediators and conflict resolution experts are called in to help opposing groups in their synod to resolve their differences.
2014 Synod approves the introduction of female bishops.