It's difficult for me as a male Free Church minister to truly know how my colleagues in the Church of England are feeling this evening, following the narrow defeat of the legislation to introduce Women Bishops today, but my heart goes out to them, as do my prayers. Having spoken to a female colleague this evening I know that there is quite a bit of frustration and anger around at the moment.
Despite overwhelming support from the House of Bishops, into which they would move, and from the House of Clergy, from which they would move, the measure fell because the majority in the House of Laity was just not sufficient: a majority wanted it, but just 6 too few to carry it. Twenty years ago it was almost the same, but then the measure to allow the Ordination of women to the priesthood was carried, albeit by a slender majority, by the lay-folk of the Anglican church in England.
Much could, and probably will, be said about how and why this situation has arisen, and about the unlikely alliance of Conservative Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics that has gone some considerable way to bringing it about: but I'm not really qualified to comment, so I won't. While this issue may have made strange bed-fellows within the breadth of the Church of England, it will also cause major ructions in the further implementation of the Anglican/ Methodist Covenant, where many of us from the Methodist Church had been insistent on women being able to minister fully at every level of the Church.
Only time will tell just how damaging this may be for the further unity of God's Church, and for the mission of that church in God's world. What do those outside the church, who know nothing of the theological niceties inherent in the debate, make of this decision? Methinks they will see it as just another example of how out of touch the Church is to modern thinking, and consequently how irrelevant we are to their lives.
We are the Body of Christ, and when one part suffers we all suffer: tonight we all feel the pain to some degree. The Church of England has sought to find a solution to this issue that keeps as many within its communion as possible, and, perhaps, for the time being, it has done that. But the time will come when the full ministry of women will be possible within the Anglican communion, of that I have no doubt. The 'kairos' moment may not be November 20 2012, but we wait for its coming in hope and faith.