At Least They Don’t Have a Filibuster

It looks like the Church of England is every bit as dysfunctional as the United States Senate:

In a sign of deepening crisis in the Church of England after it rejected the appointment of women as bishops, its spiritual leader said Wednesday that the church had “undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility” and had a “lot of explaining to do” to people who found its deliberations opaque.

The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, was speaking after an emergency meeting of bishops called to debate Tuesday’s narrow balloting by its General Synod rejecting the ordination of women as bishops, even though female priests account for one-third of the Church of England’s clergy members.

Female priests hold senior positions like canon and archdeacon, and some had been hoping to secure appointments as bishops by 2014 if the change had been approved.

The vote represented a direct rebuff to Archbishop Williams’s reformist efforts during his 10 years as head of the church and a huge setback to a campaign for change that has been debated intensely and often bitterly for the past decade.

More than 70 percent of the 446 synod votes on Tuesday were in favor of opening the church’s episcopacy to women. But the synod’s voting procedures require a two-thirds majority in each of its three “houses”: bishops, clergy and laity. The bishops approved the change by 44 to 3, and the clergy by 148 to 45. The vote among the laity, though, was 132 to 74, six votes fewer than the two-thirds needed.

Although I will admit it is refreshing to see a church “crisis” that doesn’t involve child rape.

23 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    The vote among the laity, though, was 132 to 74, six votes fewer than the two-thirds needed.

    So it wasn’t the church hierarchy that was the problem?

  2. 2
    beltane says:

    I think we just found the perfect job for John McCain for whenever he retires from the Senate-a member of the Church of England general synod. He would be a youngster among that crowd, most of whom were young men back in Bishop Cranmer’s day.

  3. 3
    cathyx says:

    These guys didn’t give up sex and relationships with the opposite sex only to now give them power. No way, no how.

  4. 4
    beltane says:

    @Baud: The church hierarchy was all in favor of female bishops. It is the ancient, partially mummified members of the laity who were against it for some reasons having to do with that naughty slut Anne Boleyn.

  5. 5
    A moocher says:

    @cathyx: In the Church of Ye Olde, priests can marry. This is even expected….have you never read any Jane Austen? Besides, to be fair, it was not the Bishops nor the other ranks that were the problem.

  6. 6
    Calouste says:


    It’s the Church of England, their priests can marry.

    There’s talk in Parliament to kick the Bishops out of the House of Lords if they can’t get things sorted out.

  7. 7
    Ecks says:

    @cathyx: Church of England clergy didn’t give up sex at all. They’re allowed to be (and often are) married. Same sex stuff is a bit more murky, but they do have one openly gay bishop, though this caused a rift in the church, with bits from some areas in Africa and such partially separating themselves over it.

    And frankly the C of E rules here are WORSE than the filibusterer, because they only get to vote on an issue once every couple of years, and it’s a 66% supermajority in 3 separate polities, not just 60% in one.

    That said, the overall institution is still CONSIDERABLY more sane than the Republican current incarnation of the party. Not that this is exactly a high bar.

  8. 8
    MikeJ says:

    I was really hoping that nice lady priest from Dibley would get her hands on a Bishopric.

  9. 9
    Ecks says:

    @MikeJ: wacky hijinks would most certainly ensue.

  10. 10
    Baud says:


    And frankly the C of E rules here are WORSE than the filibusterer,

    Although it worked an injustice here, I can see why a church might want to not change policies as easily as you’re supposed to be able to do in government.

  11. 11
    Peregrinus says:

    Count me among those surprised that the bishops weren’t the problem, because the last time this issue was brought up, they were . . . but also unsurprised that the laity proved an issue. I’d heard there were elements within the CoE’s audience that were worried about Rowan Williams’ reformist tone.

    If memory serves, the Episcopalians also have laity in their assemblies here. I imagine if the RCC opened decision-making doors to laity they’d find that at least a goodly amount of the laity would like to reform the structure of the church, which is why it won’t happen in a million years.

  12. 12
    Schlemizel says:

    I am trying mightily to understand why one particular branch of a rotten tree should be of any concern to me.

    Fuck the CoE. Sideways. With a rusty pitchfork. Fuck anyone who even looks like them.

  13. 13
    Peregrinus says:


    Perhaps because it isn’t the branch that you’d expect?

  14. 14
    the Conster says:

    Irrelevant institution makes itself more irrelevant. Yawn. And by yawn, I mean good.

  15. 15
    joes527 says:

    @Schlemizel: Because a slim failure to achieve a supermajority in one of three houses shows that they are all worthless shots? (Duck autocorrect)

  16. 16
    Kent says:

    So who is the Anglican Laity? I was curious. Wikipedia tells us:

    Members of the House of Laity are elected by lay members of the Deanery Synod in each Diocese every five years by a system of single transferable vote. There are:

    up to 170 members elected by the laity of the Province of Canterbury,
    up to 80 members elected by the laity of the Province of York,
    the Dean of the Arches,
    the Vicars-General of the Provinces of Canterbury and York,
    the three Church Estate Commissioners,
    the Chairman of the Central Board of Finance,
    the Chairman of the Church of England Pensions Board,
    the members of the Archbishops’ Council who are communicants of the Church of England.

    So basically it appears to be folks elected from congregations in Canterbury and York. That is it. Strikes me that this is probably just poor politics on the part of the bishops who probably shouldn’t have called an election without knowing what the result was going to be.

  17. 17
    Darkrose says:

    This honestly baffled me. Granted, I’m an extremely lapsed Episcopalian, but I kind of assumed that the C of E was on board with women-as-bishops and was digging their heels in over non-celibate gays and lesbians. I mean, Barbara Harris was ordained as Bishop of Massachusetts over 20 years ago, and the head of the Episcopal Church is Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    A part of me hates to say this, but I’m starting to think that if the rest of the Anglican Communion can’t keep up, maybe it’s time for the ECUSA to go their own way.

  18. 18
    Cathy W says:

    @Kent: Just a little further clarification: the Province of Canterbury covers about the southern 2/3 of England and the Province of York covers about the northern 1/3 of the country. It’s not just the two cities. I’m guessing the population of laypeople is such that 80 votes for York and 170 for Canterbury is roughly proportional.

    I would have figured that, this long after allowing female clergy, allowing female bishops would be a non-issue – but then again my Episcopalian relatives tell me that here in the US, even 35 years after the first female priests, 20+ years after the first female bishop, and with a woman currently heading the church, there are still people who aren’t sure female ordination is a good idea. The Church of England is even a few years behind that. So.

    (Also, this is another case where demographics will catch up with even the most conservative: in 2010, more women than men were ordained priests in the Church of England.)

  19. 19
    opie_jeanne says:

    @MikeJ: I see what you did there.

  20. 20
    lacp says:

    @Peregrinus: Nobody expects the Church of England!

  21. 21

    Is it just me or does anyone else hearing the the name of Archbishop of Canterbury picture Rowan Atkinson? Archbishop Bean. That would be something.

  22. 22
    Hawes says:

    The “Anglican Communion” would appear to be on its last legs. The Episcopal Church I belong to has a female priest, we have a female bishop above her and obviously Bishop Schori sits atop the whole pile.

    Many if not most of our members are former Catholics who departed over the Catholic church being kind of shitty. It seems that would be a large pool from which to fish.

    The CofE will get there eventually once they’ve exhausted all other options.

    And with that, there is this:

  23. 23

    “On the eve of the feasts of St Jude and St Simon / The good Christian Reverend Fraser resigned / While democracy stumbles and falls here on the steps of St Pauls.”–

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