It is worth noting that at no stage of the proceedings has there been a two-thirds majority in the House of Laity in favour of the proposals. After traditionalists repeatedly told the Synod that the proposed Code of Practice simply was not an adequate response to the substance of their theological objections to women bishops, it should have come as no surprise that the legislation was defeated. Advocates of women bishops should have realised that, much as they might have wished it otherwise, the Synodical process did what it was designed to do: ensure that major changes cannot be made without consensus, and that the majority cannot exercise tyranny over a substantial minority.
Instead, those of us who in good conscience voted against the measure have been collectively subjected to an outpouring of vitriol, bile, misrepresentation, and contempt, including (I am sorry to say) in some cases from other members of General Synod, through the media and social networks. Suddenly, there are cries that the House of Laity is unrepresentative of the laity at large, that the system is “broken,” and even that Parliament should intervene to impose women bishops on the church. Opponents of the measure are told that we have damaged the Church of England; we are caricatured as “extremists” and worse. We are threatened with a “single-clause measure” next time around, without even a Code of Practice to provide for those who cannot accept women as bishops. If ever there was a question whether legislative provision was really necessary — whether what was required was, after all, just more generous mutual trust — such an aspiration seems hopelessly naïve now.
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© 2013 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.
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