- (Photo: Reuters/Finbarr O'Reilly)
Only 10 days after rejecting a proposal to accept female bishops, the Church of England has already started taking steps toward a new initiative at its governing General Synod to get the issue up for another vote.
A 19-member archbishops' council said that a meeting next month will "put in place a clear process for discussions in the new year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July."
Bishops have described the issue "as a matter of urgency," and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has urged the church to "get on with it" after expressing his disappointment at the failed vote on Nov. 20. Cameron has said that the church should resolve the matter on its own, but The Associated Press noted that some lawmakers have suggested that they might abolish the Church of England's exemption status if it is deemed guilty of gender discrimination.
Although the majority of voters at the General Synod voted in favor of female bishops, the crucial vote in the House of Laity came down to 132 in favor of women bishops to 74 against, meaning that the required two-thirds majority was not met – it fell short by only six votes.
Church of England leaders, including retiring Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and his replacement, the Rev. Justin Welby, the next spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, both pushed hard for the acceptance of female bishops into the highest echelons of clergy, and were left disappointed at the outcome.
Welby, however, who takes over as Anglican head in March, expressed his confidence that the Church of England will indeed start ordaining female bishops during his time in charge.
"It's clear those women are going to be bishops in the Church of England," Welby said.
"It was a pretty grim day for the whole church. There is a lot to be done but I am absolutely confident that at some point I will consecrate a woman bishop."
It is expected that it will take at least five years before another major vote on the issue is presented before the General Synod. The Church of England already allows for female bishops, and is seeking to emulate the Episcopal Church in the U.S. where both men and women can serve as bishops. Opponents of the proposal have insisted, however, that since all of Christ's disciples were men, it is not biblical to suggest that women should be allowed to serve as bishops.