The Synod: Will Rowan Williams have to walk?
As mentioned in Tuesday’s blog, Friday’s General Synod is looking ever more like a watershed for the CofE. With neither progressives nor conservatives willing to back down on the issue of consecrating women bishops, the Church is staring down the barrel of schism and acrimony.
To recap, liberals are determined that this Synod should finally mark the end of 20 years’ infighting about ordained women, and it looks more than likely that draft legislation to allow women bishops will be ratified. Conservatives, meanwhile, are hoping against hope that some compromise can be reached to allow them to continue to ignore female priests. Should their hopes be dashed, they may leave the CofE and either rejoin Rome or establish their own splinter church.
Into this crucible have stepped Archbishops Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, both of whom are desperate to keep their Church together. They’ve tabled an amendment to try and make provisions for those parishes who can’t conscionably accept either women bishops, or male clergy ordained by a woman, and they hope to convince Synod to accept this and bring the wantaways back into the fold.
The augurs are, though, that Synod has no appetite for any more legislative wooliness, and that the Archbishops’ amendment will fail. If that does happen, Rowan Williams may well see it as a resigning issue. He’s already going against established protocol by asking Synod to vote on an amendment to draft legislation anyway, and he’s also going against majority opinion in the CofE, which is largely in favour of women bishops, and doesn’t want to see them ignored by certain sections.
The Daily Mail is predicting a ‘bloodbath’ resulting from the amendment, while The Guardian claims that women priests will walk away if Synod offers too many sops to the conservatives – it’s an increasingly nasty business.
This all comes quite apart from the whole Jeffrey John business blown open by The Telegraph this week. The openly gay Dean of St Albans has been blocked from becoming a bishop yet again, despite his obvious ability as a clergiman. He was removed from a shortlist for the diocese of Southwark by the Crown Nominations Commission, on which sits Rowan Williams. It’s another blow to his liberal credentials, and it’s come at the most inopportune moment for him, as he tries to hold his fragmenting Church together. He no doubt did it to try and appease the evangelicals, but in doing so, and denying a good man his rightful position in Southwark, he is bound to have done himself more harm.
Williams clearly feels he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t, and he’s just as clearly in an impossible position – but it’s looking more and more likely that he’ll have to walk if he doesn’t follow the way the wind is blowing.
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