A number of Protestant church ministers in Derry have voiced their disquiet after the Anglican Church’s General Synod this week rejected legislation introducing the first women bishops.
The vote on Tuesday night came in spite of 42 out of 44 dioceses in the Church of England backing the legislation.
The draft legislation was carried in the houses of bishops and clergy in the General Synod but failed by six votes to gain the necessary two-thirds majority amongst lay members.
The vote was billed as the biggest in the 20 years since the General Synod backed the introduction of women priests.
Local Church of Ireland minister, Rev. Pat Storey, Rector of St Augustine’s, said it was a “sad day” for the Church of England.
She added: “This is just a personal opinion and I realise people of all denominations differ on this issue but, for me, it is a sad day for the Church of England.
“Women have been ordained in the Church of Ireland since 1990 and, since that time, it is possible for a woman here to be elected Bishop. It hasn’t happened yet, nevertheless it is only a matter of time. It is possible and it is probable. For women ministering in the Church of England, there is now another substantial delay before this subject will even come to General Synod again. For some, it is an equality issue and, for others, it is about the place of tradition in church life. It seems ‘ne’er the twain shall meet’.
“How do we go forward from here? My own personal reflections - and I recognise that it is easy for me to reflect as it doesn’t affect me personally - is that it is vitally important that women who are hurt by this (and men) remember why they got ordained in the first place and simply continue to serve God. God, through the Holy Spirit, always makes His will known in the end, and we have to trust His timing. Our duty and passion should continue to be seeing people come to Christ and recognise His love for them.
“Making disciples is, and always will be, the first passion of the ordained. I wish the women of the Church of England every blessing as they try to become ‘better not bitter’,” said Rev. Storey.
Among those to also voice disappointment at the decision was Dr. David Latimer, Minister of First Derry Presbyterian Church.
He said: “Clearly there isn’t a level playing field for men and women within the Anglican church. If I was a woman priest within the Church of England, I would be feeling second class given how a male dominated club has succeeded in preserving its right to speak for all Anglicans.
“However, a modicum of comfort must surely reside in the narrowness of the victory achieved by those opposed to women bishops.
“A mere six votes will, undoubtedly, generate some wind for the sails of those who consider the time is right for change and for the ordination of women bishops.
“Notwithstanding, it must be appreciated how change is not easy for the church and evidence of this is the way it has taken 2,000 years for the church to be what it is today.
“The journey towards more fair and equitable church structures must of necessity continue. Along the way it will surely be helpful to recall how with God there is perfect equality and, moreover, with Him there are no weeds - only potential roses.”