LONDON – The Church of England’s governing body blocked a move Tuesday to permit women to serve as bishops in a vote so close it failed to settle the question of female leadership and likely condemned the institution to years more debate on the issue.
The General Synod’s daylong debate ended with the rejection of a compromise that was intended to unify the faithful despite differing views on whether women should be allowed in the hierarchy. But backers failed to gain the necessary majority by six votes.
“There is no victory in the coming days,” said Rev. Angus MacLeay. “It is a train crash.”
The defeat was a setback for Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, who retires at the end of December, and his successor, Bishop Justin Welby. Both had strongly endorsed a proposed compromise that would have respected the decision of those who objected to the ordination of women bishops.
Instead of ending decades of debate on the issue in the church, the narrow defeat opens the church, which has around 80 million members worldwide, to further years of internal discussions. It also forms an uncomfortable backdrop to the start of Welby’s leadership. He is due to be enthroned in March.
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