Rowan Williams Says Anglicans 'Blind to Society' After Rejecting Women Bishops

A day after the Church of England failed to come to a two-third majority vote to pave the way for women bishops, its spiritual head, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, has suggested that the Anglican church has lost credibility and is "blind" to the trends of society.

"Whatever the motivation for voting yesterday, whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society," Williams began.

"Worse than that, it seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society," he continued. "We have as a result of yesterday undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society."

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The vote on Tuesday during the General Synod proved to be very tight, reflecting the split ideological opinions in the Communion when it comes to ordaining women to the highest levels of Anglican clergy. The vote in the House of Laity came down to 132 in favor of women bishops to 74 against, or a 64 percent majority – but that fell just six votes short of meeting the two-thirds needed to pass the proposal.

Williams, who is set to retire in December, had been pushing hard for the legislation backing women bishops, and so the result is seen as a big blow to the conclusion of his tenure as the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion, which he served for the past 10 years.

His successor, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, who also supported the proposal, added that it was a "very grim day," The New York Times reported. "Most of all for women priests and supporters, need to surround all with prayer and love and cooperate with our healing God."

The debate over female bishops comes down to progressives against traditional views, those who insist that since women can serve as priests, they should be allowed to serve as bishops. Many of those who voted against the proposal, however, maintain that since Jesus' 12 disciples were all men, there is no biblical support for women bishops.

John Sentamu, Archbishop of York and the second-ranking cleric in Church of England, said Wednesday morning that although many see the vote as the "death knell" for the church that has seen membership decline, the Anglican Communion was still "very much" alive.

"This morning people have been saying the church has committed suicide, the church is dead," Sentamu told the BBC. "Well, dead people don't converse. We have been conversing, we have not committed suicide at all, we are very much living."

At one point this year, the vote to ordain female bishops seemed likely to pass, 20 years after the church started ordaining women as priests. A new vote on the issue will not be put on the table at least for another five years – and those supporting the vote, including Welby, hope that by then, a new proposal will be able to push the votes over that crucial two-thirds majority vote.

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