21/11/2012 07:48 GMT | Updated 21/11/2012 07:49 GMT

Christians Criticise Women Bishops Vote Procedure at General Synod

The Church of England's bishops are to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday after legislation paving the way for the first women bishops narrowly failed to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod of the Church of England.

If six people had changed their vote from no to yes in the House of Laity the legislation would have received the necessary two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod.

The Rev Prebendary Rod Thomas, a vicar in Plymouth and chairman of the conservative evangelical grouping Reform, which recommended a no vote, said: "My overall conclusion is that it is very good news for the Church of England.


Demonstrators protest against the ordination of women bishops

"We have avoided what could have been a disastrous mistake for our unity and witness."

The Catholic Group on the General Synod, which backed a no vote, said in a statement: "We regret the Synod was put in the position whereby draft legislation failed at final approval because it was unclear and unfair in its provision for those who, in conscience, are unable to accept the ministry of women as bishops or priests.

"The Catholic Group calls on the House of Bishops to reconvene the talks started in the summer between representatives of different groups, chaired by Bishop Justin Welby."

The defeat comes in spite of a series of appeals from senior bishops in the Church of England for the General Synod to back final approval for the legislation.

Bishop Welby, speaking to the General Synod, pledged to protect those who oppose the ordination of women if the legislation was passed.

He said it was "time to finish the job" and vote in favour of final approval for legislation.

"It is time to finish the job and vote for this measure but also the Church of England needs to show how we can develop the mission of the Church in a way that demonstrates that we can manage diversity of view without division - diversity in amity, not diversity in enmity," he said.

Appeals from senior bishops for people to vote in favour of the motion were followed by a series of speeches at the General Synod opposing giving final approval to the legislation. One speaker said the Church of England was facing a "train crash".

Dr Charles Hanson told the General Synod that if women bishops were approved now it would be "second class legislation".

He added: "Being asked to sign this legislation is like being asked to sign a blank cheque."

Susannah Leafe said more discussion was needed, adding: "I genuinely believe that we can do better.

"And I just wonder if you looked at this the other way round.

"What if we say we wanted to stay together first and then try to discuss legislation for women bishops?"

The Rev Canon Chris Sugden from the Oxford Diocese urged a vote against. "Christian doctrine is not set by a popular vote as though it was Strictly Come Dancing," he said.

The Rev Angus MacLeay, from Sevenoaks in the Rochester Diocese, speaking against giving final approval to the legislation, said: "Whatever the outcome, there is no victory in the coming days. It is a train crash."