I happened to be in London when the Church of England voted to reject female bishops. The verdict came as quite a surprise. Women have been ordained as priests in the Church for twenty years, and allowing them to become bishops would certainly seem to be the next logical step. Twelve years of negotiations between “reformers” and “traditionalists”—apparently a way of life in the C of E—had culminated in a compromise under which dissenting parishes not wanting to be under the authority of a female primate could request hierarchal supervision by a male. Both the soon-to-retire Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and his about-to-be-installed successor, Justin Welby, energetically advocated for the reform. In the run up to the vote, most commentators believed that the resolution allowing woman bishops would receive the General Synod’s overwhelming support.
Since the rejection last Wednesday, liberal observers in the Church of England, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion, have felt defeated. However, many conservative Anglican voices are equally negative.
According to Father Michael Harkness, a conservative Anglican priest in Lynchburg, Va., the Church of England is going the way of its sister American Episcopal Church, “drifting from her catholic and apostolic roots.”