Evangelicals split over women bishops vote

The vote on women bishops in the Church of England yesterday has met with a mixed response from evangelicals.

Legislation to allow women into the episcopate was narrowly defeated at the final hurdle after failing to secure a two-thirds majority among lay members.

The Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) welcomed the outcome, saying the vote had upheld biblical and catholic orthodoxy but added that it could not be seen as a victory for either side.

The provision of alternative oversight for traditionalists was deemed by the CEEC to be "weak and inadequate".

Looking forward, Mr Lawson said he hoped women in the Church would not feel marginalised.

"What will be extremely sad is if the result of this vote leads some women to feel they are marginalised in the church, for the reality is that the New Testament encourages the ministry of both men and women, yet in complementary ways," he said.

"There are of course many places where the rich ministerial gifts of women already have a chance to flourish. But as a result of the vote, this complementarity needs an even greater encouragement by word and action in our churches."

The Chairman of the Reform group of evangelicals, Rod Thomas, said the Church of England had "avoided making a big mistake which would have led to real division and a less inclusive Church".

He said Synod's decision had shown respect for the issues of conscience involved and that it had avoided putting significant minorities into "an impossible position".

"We now have a real opportunity to build on the Church's solid biblical foundations, reflecting together on the right way forward," he said.

"The good news is that we are still together and able to witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ, which is the heart of our gospel, the basis of our unity, and the only hope for the future of church and nation."

Mr Thomas said traditionalist evangelicals would approach any discussions on the issue initiated by the next Archbishop of Canterbury "positively".

He also expressed sympathy for supporters of the Measure who felt deeply disappointed at its defeat.

"We recognise there is now a need for everyone to take stock while working together to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God as Advent approaches."

The Fulcrum group of evangelicals, which supports women bishops, expressed its disappointment at the outcome.

Fulcrum member and vicar of All Saints', Harrow Weald, the Reverend James Mercer, said the vote was a "body blow" for the Church of England.

"The decision flies in the face of the majority opinion," he said.

"Yet out of total despair comes unforeseen hope. Women will be bishops. The Bible demands it."

Fellow Fulcrum member Andy Walton said he was "saddened" and "surprised" by Synod's inability to pass the legislation.

"Fulcrum is deeply committed to women's ministry at every level of the church," he said.

"It should be noted that a majority of all three houses of synod voted in favour. This encourages us for the future.

"We urge all who support legislation to make women bishops to act graciously and humbly as we go forward and discern how best to make it a reality."

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