What a difference a vote makes!

That WATCH should indulge itself in quite so much hyperbole in the wake of the vote should come as no surprise. That the result should be a ‘devastating blow’ goes without saying, given the ‘overwhelming support’ to be found not just in the church but also, of course, in the ‘country at large’. Naturally, the General Synod will need to ‘look again at how it represents the will of the people in the pews’ which, being translated, presumably means ‘we ought to find a way to get around this vote’.


Today’s vote is a devastating blow for the Church of England and the people of this country. This vote is a missed opportunity for a whole generation to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England. There is overwhelming support for women bishops in both in the church and in the country at large. We have been discussing this issue for a generation and working on the details of this compromise legislation for over ten years. 42 out of 44 dioceses supported the draft Measure: 75% of all votes were cast in favour.

Today, 74% of General Synod members voted in favour of women bishops. Both the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy voted overwhelmingly in support, but the Measure was narrowly defeated in the House of Laity where it failed to reach the required 2/3 majority: by 5 votes. In the coming weeks, bishops will need to act promptly to offer pastoral support to women clergy and others who will feel devastated by this outcome.

The General Synod clearly needs to look again at how it represents the will of the people in the pews. Our Christianity calls us to the future and not the past. WATCH will continue to work towards a future for the Church of England where the gifts and callings of women and men are equally recognised and valued.

The Revd Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said, “This is a tragic day for the Church of England after so many years of debate and after all our attempts at compromise. Despite this disappointing setback, WATCH will continue to campaign for the full acceptance of women’s gifts of leadership in the Church’s life.”

All of which is so very different from the tone the sisterhood adopted way back in July 2010, after they had seen off the much-trumpeted Archbishops’ Amendment. Then, they were ‘disappointed’ that their opponents felt the need to draw attention to the fact that the Amendment, although defeated, had in fact been supported by a majority of the Synod. Back then, apparently, we were the ones ‘seeking to discredit the standard practices of General Synod’ – quite what they are doing this time round (‘The General Synod clearly needs to look again at how it represents the will of the people in the pews.’) is unclear. Meanwhile, Chairman the Revd Rachel Weir went on record in 2010 to say: ‘It is important that we all continue to honour the processes of Synod and move forward in the light of the decisions they have made’ – a line all of us would surely applaud. Other than, perhaps, the writer of the comment on the WATCH Blog the day after the 2012 vote: ‘ . . . our system of synodical governance is in desperate need of reform.’ Who she? Why, none other than Chairman the Revd Rachel ‘Honour the processes of Synod’ Weir! What a very big difference a vote makes!



WATCH is disappointed that some opponents of women bishops are seeking to discredit the standard practices of General Synod after the vote on the Archbishops’ amendment yesterday. The procedure of votes being taken “by houses” is standard practice for many issues. It must be requested from the floor and supported by 25 members of synod. Once this decision is taken, the votes of each House of Synod (Bishops, Clergy and Lay) are added separately. A majority is required in all three houses for the motion to be carried. This ensures that all three groups are prepared to support a proposal and the Church can move forward together.

Ironically the same procedure was used in 1978 when Synod first fully considered ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops. Although it obtained a majority overall, the motion failed to achieve a majority in the House of Clergy and therefore fell.

“It is important that we all continue to honour the processes of Synod and move forward in the light of the decisions they have made,” said the Revd Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH. “We hope and trust that the graciousness and attentive listening that characterised Saturday’s debate continues on Monday when Synod completes its consideration of the draft legislation.

Supporting the draft legislation represents a significant compromise for WATCH and others who support women’s ordained ministry: a compromise made in a spirit of generosity to make space for those opposed.”

WATCH looks forward to these proposals going forward to the wider church for further consultation.

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