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"A potentially liberating moment for all of us": Archbishop urges Synod to vote for women bishops

Tuesday 20th November 2012

Shortly before the historic vote at General Synod today, the Archbishop of Canterbury said it was "time to turn the page" on the question of women bishops.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has urged Synod members still unsure about women bishops to play their part “in what could be a potentially liberating moment for us all.”

Archbishop Rowan encouraged those members, who form a small but crucial minority, to abstain or vote yes so the measure could pass.

Speaking during this afternoon’s General Synod session on women bishops at Church House in London, Archbishop Rowan said: “It is time to turn the page on this [issue] and see what we can do with it.”

Dr Williams acknowledged that many members could not support women bishops because of deeply-held theological convictions. He said these people should vote with their conscience – and that he would do the same if he opposed the measure.

Instead he addressed his remarks to those who are “genuinely uncertain, either about the principle, or about the tactics and the timing, or who simply aren’t sure that we have the right vehicle” to deliver the changes. 

The Archbishop said few “blindingly fresh ideas” were likely to surface in further rounds of consultation. But he said that despite fierce debates an “increasingly strong flow of feeling and thinking” on women bishops has emerged in recent years.

“And we have to weigh the significant point about whether we can in the long run defend a system in which certain priests are forever blocked from having an episcopal vocation tested,” he added.

If the Church votes yes, Archbishop Rowan said it would be “still seeking to uphold and honour” those with “traditional views of episcopal ministry.”

“We are not deliberately overturning the historic Catholic consensus,” he said.

The Archbishop also stressed the legislative requirement that any diocesan scheme take minority groups seriously “in their own terms.”

“I don’t think we should underrate the significance of that.”

Concluding his speech, the Archbishop urged undecided Synod members to consider the message that a ‘no’ vote would send to society.

“It may be true that the Synod’s failure to vote ‘yes’ to today would not effect too adversely what people thought of the Church. But I’m rather clearer that a ‘no’ vote would not do anything positive for image of the Church.”

The Archbishop ended on what he called a “deeply troubling question”: “How much energy [do] we want to spend on this in the next decade? And how much [do] we want to bind the energies and skills of a new Archbishop into a new agenda?”


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