The Bishop of Bradford has spoken of his regret about the decision by the General Synod to reject draft legislation to allow women bishops in the Church of England.
The Right Reverend Nick Baines has said he was “strongly in favour” of women bishops and has said it is important to note the General Synod still voted hugely in favour of women’s bishops, only to fall short by six votes.
A draft measure ushering in the prospect of women bishops, including a possible future female Archbishop of Canterbury cleared the Houses of Bishops and Clergy in the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority among lay members.
The Rt Rev Baines said: “The motion was strongly carried in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy and lost in the House of Laity. I’m strongly in favour of women bishops and regret the decision by the House of Laity.
“The Church now needs to draw breath and ask where we go from here. This decision, clearly against the express wish of the dioceses, does not change the fact that Jesus is Risen.”
The former Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams used stronger language yesterday when he said the Church had “undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility” in society following the defeat of the legislation.
He told the General Synod: “Whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to wider society.
“Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.
“We have some explaining to do, we have as a result of yesterday undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society.”
The vote was billed as the biggest in the 20 years since the General Synod backed the introduction of women priests in 1992 and comes after 42 out of the 44 dioceses of the Church of England backed the legislation.
If the measure had received final approval, it would have gone to the Houses of Parliament before Royal Assent with the first women bishops on course to be appointed as early as 2014.
Bradford MPs have been split on the role they should play in relation to the vote. Bradford East MP David Ward said: “This is very, very disappointing. Half the population of the has been snubbed and it is very regrettable.”
Meanwhile, Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “As far as I am concerned it is a matter for the Church of England and I do not see it is for MPs. It is up to them to determine the best way with their own religious beliefs”
The Reverend Ruth Yeoman, Vicar of Menston Parish Church, said: “I was very disappointed when we were not able to take the courageous vote to see women admitted as bishops in the Church of England.”
Bradford West MP George Galloway said: “I’m tempted to say this is an institution with entrenched institutionalised sexism, but that’s certainly how the rest of the world will view it. I’m not even sure this is legal. It is a disastrous decision by a conservative minority and it will have further serious consequences on church attendances. Surely there must be a mechanism for a recall vote?”
Keighley MP Kris Hopkins said: “I am extremely disappointed the Synod has voted against women bishops. The next time I receive a lecture from the Church of England about equalities, I might use this decision as a reference point.”