The Church of England's rejection of women bishops damaged its credibility, the Archbishop of Canterbury acknowledged in his final Christmas sermon.

While referencing the "deeply painful" vote by the Church's governing body, the Archbishop took heart from a groundswell of interest from the general public - contrasting this with a twelve percent drop in those identifying as Christians in the 2011 census.

"What was startling was how many people who certainly wouldn’t have said yes to the census question turned out to have a sort of investment in the Church, a desire to see the Church looking credible and a real sense of loss when – as they saw it – the church failed to sort its business out," he said.

chritmas sermon

The Archbishop of Canterbury delivered his first Christmas sermon


Williams is due to be replaced as leader of the Church of England by the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, in March 2013.

The Archbishop also spoke of the "privilege" of meeting people who had worked to forgive cruelty and violence, including parents who had lost a child to gang violence.

Williams and Justin Welby were joined by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, in tweeting highlights from their Christmas sermons.


Lambeth Palace
ABC: The census told us that only 59% of British people describe themselves as Christians - 12% down from ten years ago

As confirmed nominee to succeed Williams as Archbishop, Welby also addressed the divisive vote on women bishops.


Justin Welby
Some speak of division in the Church, difference of opinion, about many things, but through the church Christ changes the world.

After referencing the PD James novel Children of Men, John Sentamu spoke of the timeless nature of greed and exploitation:


John Sentamu
“Sadly ruthless greed and exploitation prevailed when Jesus was born and is still prevailing now in our global village.”

The top clergy were joined by an estimated 16,000 churchgoers tweeting on Christmas morning, many using the hashtag #ChristmasStartsWithChrist.

SEE ALSO: Vincent Nichols, Archbishop Of Westminster Describes Gay Marriage Plans As 'A Shambles'

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