Archbishop of Canterbury calls for restoration of trust over women bishops debate

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the Church of England's parliamentary body today that there are "no magic bullets" in resolving divisions over women bishops.

The General Synod got underway in York today and will debate a motion on women bishops legislation on Monday.

In his inaugural speech to the General Synod as Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby said it was clear that there was a "very significant absence of trust" not only between differing groups in the Church but also towards the bishops.

"If General Synod decides that we are not to be hospitable to diversity of views we need to say so bluntly and not mislead," he said.

"If we say we will ordain women as priests and bishops we must do so in exactly the same way as men.

"If we say that all are welcome even where they disagree with the ordination of women as priests or bishops, they must be welcome in spirit and deed as well as in word.

"Lack of integrity and transparency poisons any hope of rebuilding trust, and rebuilding trust in the best of circumstances is the work of years and even decades – there are no magic bullets.

"So how we travel, and our capacity to differ without hating each other and to debate without dividing from each other, is crucial to the progress we make."

Synod will debate a motion on Monday from the House of Bishops proposing that new legislation to permit women to the episcopate be ready for consideration by the next group of sessions in November.

Also on the agenda is a debate on the challenges for the quinquennium and the Church of England's core goals for this period, namely contributing as the national Church to the common good, facilitating the growth of the Church, and reimagining the Church's ministry.

Touching on these challenges in his address, he noted that the Church of England was carrying out its ministry in the midst of a social, political and economic "revolution".

Most recently, the debate on legalising gay marriage had revealed the "overwhelming change of cultural hinterland".

Archbishop Welby, who spoke in opposition to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the debate in Parliament, told Synod: "Predictable attitudes were no longer there. The opposition to the Bill was utterly overwhelmed … There was noticeable hostility to the view of the churches."

He added: "We may or may not like it but we must accept that there is a revolution in the area of sexuality."

However, he went on to say that the Church must "demonstrate a profound commitment to stamp out" the stereotyping and bullying of gay people.

"More than that we need also to ensure that what we do and say demonstrates above all the lavish love of God to all of us, who are all without exception sinners," he said.

The Archbishop said the Church of England's goals for growth were "utterly suited" to the changing landscape.

He called for a reimagining of ministry and evangelism, as well as a renewal of prayer and religious life, as he admitted that Anglicans were sometimes guilty of struggling to "fit in" the call to be good news in the world.

"We need new imagination in evangelism through prayer and a fierce determination not to let evangelism be squeezed off our agendas."

There was also the need, he continued, for reconciliation within the Church and for Anglicans to be reconcilers in their communities and the wider world.

"Even if we do sometimes conduct our arguments at high volume and in public, to be reconcilers means enabling diversity to be lived out in love, resisting hatred of the other, demonisation of our opponents," he said.

In a time of austerity and hardship, many people are looking for answers, the Archbishop continued.

"When we show holy hospitality and the outflow of grace, we are full of people seeking us. There is every cause for hope," he said.