Well, that’s a bit embarrassing.
For the measure on women in the episcopate to pass, it needed a 67% majority in all of three houses: bishops, clergy and laity.
It got 94% in the House of Bishops (Yes 44; No 3; Absentions 2), 77% in the House of Clergy (Yes 148; No 45) , 64% in the House of Laity (Yes 132; No 74). So it lost by a whisker, really. Six votes — or fewer than that and a few abstentions.
Here’s some more advice for churchy types:
1) Don’t believe the headlines. Lots of them will say “Church of England says “No” to women bishops” or similar. This is not what has happened. The Church of England has NOT rejected having women in the episcopate; rather it has affirmed, many times over, that it will have women in the episcopate. What has been rejected — by a very slim margin — is this particular legislation. Yes, this is a significant and, for many of us, sorrowful delay. No, it is not the end. This issue is not going to go away.
2) Continue being gentle with yourself and others. This hurts. I know it hurts me, and I’m not even ordained. I know that those who oppose the ordination of women will be worried that next time there might just be a single measure, with no provision. I know that many women will be feeling rejected, impatient, raw. What I said in my last post still applies, perhaps now more than ever. Take things one breath, one prayer at a time. Be patient with one another, and with people who aren’t normally church geeks and may not understand point 1). Take breaks from the most argumentative social media if you need to. Allow yourself to lament, allow yourself to grieve, but in spaces where that is going to be safe for you and others. Otherwise, focus on the tasks at hand, the ways in which you can do good here and now. It might feel as if the world is ending and the church is falling apart, or maybe the Church of England is ending and the world is falling apart, but that homeless shelter still needs your help, that carol service still wants to be sung.
3) When you’ve recovered a bit, get involved, and get other people involved. At the end of the day, General Synod is made up of people who have turned up. It’s clearly not enough to assume that they will act as representatives rather than on their own opinions, and to an extent, that’s understandable. But it’s worth giving consideration to exactly how this happened, and what each of us might do differently in future. I don’t think it’s just down to the voting by house or the supermajority requirement, though without those structures the vote would have been very different. I think what is needed in the C of E is actually a huge cultural change, a huge re-imagining of who we are, overwhelming renewal of who we are, who we are for, what we do and how we do it. I don’t know what this will look like, exactly. I think we need to engage better with the current systems and structures, but I also think we need to talk together, dream together, pray together, work together. I believe we can build a better Church of England, and a better society in general, without destroying all that we have. I know we can’t any of us do it on our own.
Addendum (Tuesday evening):
I’m seeing a lot of people, committed C of E people, talking about leaving the C of E over this. I refer you to point 1. I also think it’s worth bearing in mind the concepts from Ignatian spirituality of “consolation” and “desolation”, and that one shouldn’t make any major decisions when in “desolation”. I can’t decide for you whether this applies — I’m just writing a blog post, honestly! — but I think it’s worth thinking about. And of course, the fewer of us there are to do the work in point 3) above, the harder it is going to be.