SUNDERLAND Minster’s Canon Provost today voiced her disappointment after plans to allow women to become bishops failed by just six votes.
Sheila Bamber said the decision by the Church of England’s ruling body, the General Synod, was a “great missed opportunity”.
Archbishop of Canterbury designate, Bishop Of Durham Justin Welby, argued in favour of the change and was backed by 44 bishops and 148 clergy.
Only three bishops voted against, along with 45 clergy, while two bishops abstained.
But the controversial change needed a two-thirds majority of all three houses of the Synod, and the House of Laity — made up of ordinary parishioners — voted just 132 in favour with 74 against.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Canon Bamber. “It was not at all what we had hoped for, prayed for or expected.
“And to have lost this particular vote by such a small margin in the House of Laity just feels really, really difficult.”
It is 18 years since women were ordained as priests in the UK, and it could now be another five years before the issue of female bishops can be raised again.
“What has happened here is not that the Church has rejected women bishops,” said Canon Bamber.
“Actually, this was a vote that was about putting in place the mechanism for making it and for protecting the position of those who in conscience, because of theological convictions, could not agree.
“So make no mistake, there will be women bishops because the Church of England has agreed that.
“But what happened this week is that they have agreed that it is not now, and I think that is a great missed opportunity.
“It is a moment where the church has dislocated itself from the movement in society and actually from its own membership in a way.”
She added: “We lost the vote on a matter of overall principle for the Church of England about the way that governance works.
“The principle is that for things that touch the doctrine of the Church then there is a higher bar to jump over, so a simple majority won’t do. It has to be reflective of the mind of the Church as composed of bishops, ordained clergy and then the lay people.
“There is a big debate going on now on how representative the elected body actually is, and all sorts of stuff around about that and whether it is the right way or not.
“But it is what it is, and we are when we are.”