A Times headline yesterday proclaiming that the honeymoon is over for Bishop Justin Welby, who has been named as the successor to Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury but has not yet been inducted, seemed to imply that the Church has become rather flexible about some of its most strongly held beliefs. However, any such thoughts were quickly dispelled by Tuesday's Synod vote against change allowing the introduction of women bishops after some ten years of intense campaigning for this cause. The Synod comprises three Houses -- of Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The first two voted strongly in its favour but when the Laity did not deliver the necessary two-thirds majority the cause was lost. The history of the Laity goes back to Henry VIII and its own voting procedures are very complex but unfortunately it has today become the refuge for extreme conservatives and evangelists who want no change.
The outcome is devastating for the retiring Archbishop of Canterbury and his successor who spoke passionately in the Synod debate in favour of women bishops. It will take at least three years and perhaps longer for the Church to return to this issue and try to repair the damage done to its own reputation and assuage the discouragement that will have been felt by women in all walks of life in England and the Church's wider communion.