08/07/2013 15:50 BST | Updated 08/07/2013 16:17 BST

Archbishop Of Canterbury Justin Welby 'Optimistic' Over Women Bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury has admitted that more work needs to be done if legislation introducing women bishops is to clear its final hurdle at the General Synod.

The Most Rev Justin Welby said the General Synod would need to continue "working at it" in its attempts to introduce women bishops into the Church of England.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury (right) confers with the Bishop of York, John Sentamu, at the Synod

"There is a strong desire to get it done - we aren't at the stage of saying should we ordain women as bishops, we are at the stage of saying we are going to ordain women as bishops, how do we go about that?," he said.

"It is going to take a little while, we are going to have to go on working at it, there has been such a shift in mood over the last six months. I remain extremely optimistic."

The Archbishop's comments came after the General Synod voted in favour of restarting the process of introducing women bishops after legislation was defeated in November.


Final approval for the legislation would have to be backed by a two thirds majority of each of the Houses of the General Synod - bishops, clergy and laity. The legislation fell in November after failing by just six votes amongst the laity - causing recriminations within the Church of England.

During the debate today a number of votes on amendments suggested there was not yet the necessary two-thirds majority amongst lay members of the General Synod to achieve final approval.

Earlier the General Synod was warned women bishops should be introduced urgently and that there was "profound unhappiness" over the collapse of legislation last year.

The Rt Rev Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said the bishops of the Church of England viewed the issue as "urgent".

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The Archbishop spoke of the "significant absence of trust" over the issue of women bishops within the General Synod

"It is not simply because Parliament is looking attentively and impatiently at what we are doing, though it is," he told the Church's national assembly.

"It's because last November's decision caused profound mystification and unhappiness around much of the Church of England. It was a serious blow to our female clergy."

The new proposals, known as "option one" out of four drawn up by a working group, could be given final approval by the General Synod in July or November 2015.

The Rev Rod Thomas, from Plymouth, of the conservative evangelical group Reform, said he did not support option one.

"If we go ahead with it, then we will not have achieved that objective of mutual flourishing, because instead of allowing people of my integrity to flourish within the Church there will be a sense of gnawing anxiety on our part if we go down the route as it stands," he said.

The new push to introduce women bishops comes after the Archbishop spoke of the "significant absence of trust" over the issue within the General Synod.

Speaking during the debate, said: "This is not about whether, but about how, so that women are ordained on exactly the same basis as men and all parts of the Church of England may be enabled to flourish.

"History and contemporary experience show that detailed arrangements not only embed division they are also unworkable and lead to frequent and prolonged litigation."