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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Archbishop tells women “this is still your Church”

Tuesday 20th November 2012

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams spoke of his “deep personal sadness” that General Synod voted against women bishops.

Archbishop Rowan said the result was “a missed opportunity” for women in the Church and those who have long championed their ministry, calling it “a great grief and great burden”.

Dr Williams said the Church’s commitment to protecting minorities means that “we are, in a sense, caught by our own good practice”.

But he added that the vote was “not the end of the issue”, because around three-quarters of General Synod members supported the inclusion of women in the episcopacy.

“Nobody wants to go on talking about it forever. There is still a will to make this happen. Even those who were opposing this afternoon said: we don’t want to drag this out forever, but we just cannot live with this.”

The Archbishop said the three-to-four years it would take for revised legislation to reach Synod again was the “most sobering and saddening” thing about the result.

“It commits us to a long process of focusing on this question when so many people would like to be talking about something else and doing something else.”

However, Archbishop Rowan said he did not accept that the Church of England is “out of touch with how people are feeling around the country.”

“On the contrary, if you listened to the debate this afternoon, you would have heard people saying, again and again, that we as a Church need to affirm our understanding of how the society around us sees these questions – and also the urgency of it.”

When asked what he would say to women in the Church following the result, the Archbishop said: “I can well understand that feeling of rejection and unhappiness and deep disillusion with the institution of the Church.

"But I would also say: it is still your Church. Not mine, not Synod’s, but yours. Your voice matters and will be heard. It’s important not to give up.”

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