The religious affairs correspondents of the quality dailies were in a frenzy of excitement. News had emerged from a meeting of the House of Bishops that agreement had finally been reached about the way forward in the matter of women bishops. Not since the ‘unanimity’ of GS829; not since the tearful expostulations of Manchester 1993, had the like been heard. ‘Bishops: a way forward in faith.’ It was a headline to die for.
Though editors are these days inclined to cut pieces about the CofE with cavalier nonchalance (the proverbial small earthquake in Chile being generally seen as a legitimate cause), even they could grasp that a common mind among fifty bishops was a newsworthy event.
The word processors whirred and clicked. Comment was sought from every shade of opinion. David Houlding proved calmly emollient; Christina Rees was imperiously and vociferously impatient; Geoffrey Kirk was laconic; and Stephen Parkinson was unavailable for comment. Pete Broadbent went public on Ship of Fools. Andrew Burnham sent an ad clerum by email. John Broadhurst was out of the country.
Ruth Gledhill put down her copy of Brides magazine to detail a judicious leak. Christopher Morgan, to whom nothing, alas, had been leaked, set down a series of wild guesses which proved, as always, far more entertaining than the actual events. Jonathan Petre, who had seen it coming all along, waited for the retraction.
And then the news came. The agreement (for what could else?) was an agreement to delay. What the House of Bishops was unanimous about was its inability to make up its own mind.