The lay members of the top legislative body of the Church of England have voted never to allow any priest among its clergy who does not have a penis to be consecrated as a bishop within their church.

In a vote that defied outright the wishes of a striking majority of its own present bishops and priests, members of the House of Laity of the General Synod of the church fell a handful of votes short of reaching the two-thirds majority within their category of the synod required to approve a change of rules that would allow persons with a vagina to rise to the level of bishop within the leadership of the church.

The synod is divided into three units: the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy, and the House of Laity. All three units must each separately reach a two-thirds majority of its voting members in order to overturn present church law, according to media reports.

On the matter of allowing females to become bishops, the three houses voted collectively to approve the measure by a 75% majority. But the breakdown came when one of the houses did not reach a two-thirds majority in its indivivdual vote. The House of Bishops last Tuesday voted 44-3 in favor, with two abstentions. The vote in the House of Clergy was 148-45 in favor. The vote in the House of Laity was 132-74 — just six votes short of the two-thirds majority needed in that body, the New York Times and CNN both reported.

Women are presently allowed to be ordained as priests in the Church of England, and indeed, one-third of its priests are female. Women may hold other senior positions as well, such as canons or archdeacons, so it is apparently not a question of the spiritual or intellectual qualifications of females that causes conservative lay members to consistently vote against female elevation to the highest offices within the church. It is, it would seem, a lack of a particular physical characteristic. The church’s lay persons have laid down the law: No penis, no mitre.

The overwhelming support of the House of Bishops itself could not persuade enough of the church’s regular members to support a reform that has been 15 years in the attempting. A sufficient number of lay people within the church have made it clear: In the House of Bishops it shall always be: Vaginas Not Allowed.

Unless something radical occurs within the Church, the three houses of its General Synod will not even have another opportunity to vote again on the proposal to allow female bishops for another five years, according to procedural rules.

Reaction to last week’s vote was negative and strong from the majority of priests and bishops within the church — perhaps the most candid from the spiritual leader of the church himself, the Archbishop of Canterbury. After the vote, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams told the General Synod: “We have, to put it very bluntly, a lot of explaining to do. Whatever the motivation for voting…whatever the theological principle on which people acted and spoke, the fact remains that a great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society. Worse than that, it seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society.”

Somewhat startling is the fact that, even in this first quarter of the 21st Century, when the question of women’s equality seems that it has been asked and answered by human society in most places, in the very sector of society where one would expect it is to resolved absolutely without discrimination toward any human beings — namely, Religion: the major institutions promoting God — the proclaiming of women as Second Class Citizens continues to be a major pillar and principle of its most sacred beliefs.

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  • Erin/IAm

    Hey! Only 6 votes short of majority? Awesome! I hope we see soon see headlines that read “Only 6 people short of critical mass!” Wouldn’t That just make the millenium?:)

  • Inger Lise

    Neale, it is very interresting material, thanks.

    To me it seems to be the same old story. As long as not each of us have come to realize of the humanity as “the same living entity” in its essence(eventually to be the compilation of one another), the same pattern of the old laboured Thought-forms will be stucked within itself.

    Sitates one of the Masters:
    “As has been indicated, a little more patient, a little more tolerant, a little more humble. But….not a tolerance that becomes timid – this would make rebellion in self. Not a patience that is not positive. Not humbleness that becomes morbid or lacking in beauty.
    For as orderliness is a part of thy being, so let the consistency – as persistency – be a part of thy being.”

    At least of us have come thus far as of to be able in to discuss absolutely all and everything in public nowadays….”The Hidden Things Revealed.”

    Quote Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World.

  • Inger Lise

    P.S. Hey again Erin, we were on the screen simoultaneously.

    ….opened up to watch the news of today, and one of the headlines caught the eyes of mine, it told: In Saudi Arabia the husbands tracing their wifes electronic to watch every step they`re taking throughout the Day(the wives covered from top-to-toe, only their noses and the eyes of to be seen).

    The world is in the need of balance, but still it is a long way to go(when to live in the linear world of time that is).

  • Sibila Reventlow

    I find it encouraging that the majority who took this decision is very small, they only had a small amount of votes in favor of their view-point that men apparently are better equipped to being in leader-ship positions within their organization than women. To me this says that prejudices and old though-forms about the value or lack of value of women are changing – even within this type of pld-faschioned thinking.

    Whether or not a human – being it someone in a male or female body finds God and divinity within his or her life in this world does not necessarily have anything to do with a church or a religion, sometimes not at all. Neither has the body´s sex have anything to do with our waking up or not to the truth of who we are. Divinity is an internal experience, external factors are not the decisive ones, light within is, in any kind of body.

  • Inger Lise

    Yeap, a documentary on TV not long ago did some interviews with the ladies in the Arab-countries(espcially in the rich country of Saudi-Arabia), they explained to the western journalist of to be very satisfied with the life. And felt comfortable of to be taking care of by the rich husbands.

    They also seemd to be very intelligent and of to have a good education. Obviously “to be satisfied” have many interpretations, the spirituality of each as well.
    It is told of us have chosen each incarnation on forehand, and nothing originally to be neither right or wrong.

    Actually, it is felt as a relief.

  • Lisa

    As a woman who has successfully carved her way into a “man’s” career. This does not surprise me. To take it to a positive spin, it’s actually impressive that nearly 75% of those voting wanted a woman to be able to be consecrated as a bishop.

    Here in this country, we still had almost 50% of voters in the presidential election feeling as if Romney and the male dominated republicans should be able to decide what woman can do with their lives and their bodies. Even some women voted this way.

    We have come leaps and bounds in a few ways, but in others we (collectively) have a long way to go. As Neale said, in the upcoming years we need to step up and lead the leaders. Power to the people.

  • Erin/IAm

    Heehee, Inger Lise…Love when that happens…esp. across the miles…& so early in our day!:)

    Doesn’t this ‘prove’ that men wear hats as a ‘compensation’…that the larger the hat, the smaller the:
    a.) Penis
    b.) ‘Balls’ (Moxie)
    c.) Mind
    d.) All of the above…check!:) heehee!

    But, seriously, folks…Why on this Earth would any ‘knowing’ woman (or man) care to be part of such a realm as this? The female aspect are born Guiders & Protectors (gender, irrelevant). Understandable that this can be seen as a formidable power to be demised by lower-level thinkers…and Consequence reigns supreme in World today! Such has to be risen to light to be Seen…and so it is…Eee-effin-haaa!:)

  • Gail

    Separation duality consciousness once again to control humanity and US imprisoned within there belief system. Some -thing has got to shift hopefully 21/12/2012 will be the shift that all our heart have been asking for. Love and light and thank you for being such a divine teacher to all of us.

  • Tim

    The most difficult decision God ever made: Should Jesus be a man or a woman?

    I try to see beyond past perceptions of God, so the above statement does not, in my opinion, reflect the true nature of God, but it helps to reveal why I too am disappointed in the failed attempt of the Church of England to move past its distorted view of gender in the church.

    Since Jesus, or any spiritual leader, could not and cannot come as gender neutral, and must come as either woman or man (in our current biological reality), they come as one or the other, and we can incorrectly attach meaning to the “chosen” gender, and we end up with preference and conflict.

  • Tonneke Heesakkers

    They were born out of a did God that….???

  • David

    Each day, more than 25,000 girls younger than 18 are married across the world. – UNFPA

    Most Religions rate women as second class citizens because according to the creation narrative, ‘God created Man… Woman just came into the picture because Man was lonely’. ‘Woman’ literally means ‘from man’.

    Woman was the one who was tempted remember?

    Anyway, the real issue is expanding this view and bringing more awareness to a patriarchal system that seems to permeate through every other life area. How can any religion support and actually encourage wedding off children to grown men???

    If we can get major religions to accept that MAN & WOMAN were created equal we can end some of the crazy practices like early marriage.

  • Inger Lise

    Yes, agree, especially when the reincarnation is to be taken into consideration(even it is told in the metaphysical teachings all over the world since the beginning of time). Because any Pope or Preacher, any male, have to realize of to be(or even might have been in former life times) a female in the past, or to be in the future incarnations.
    It is to be continued the life-circles within both genders until (the lessons of both genders that is…nowadays it is all public, the mixture of both) of us to have learned “the oneness-lesson.”
    In the end sex is to be the illusion(it makes sense, who`ll be in the need of sex or a Body at all?)
    I`m in the good mood today.
    Erin and I…..We are One.

    P.S. To be serious, harming the kids in any way, awakens the old warrior within me. I`m having a hard time in(when watching the news anywhere)of to forgive any harm done to small children. That`s the big challenge, the primitive mother/-killer-instinct in the human form when defending a child by the own life.
    It is demanding a Master in to overcome.
    “Unless ye be as the small children….etc.”

  • Another Vagina

    Sad, but not surprising. If I were a member of that church I’d stop going and withdraw all monetary support.

  • Inger Lise

    It is free here with us The Church(s). No donations needed. And all of us does as we pleases.
    Nighty, nigh from over here.

  • al loomis

    really doesn’t matter what any human says, or wants. surely the word of god must prevail. and he said, what? or she, but possibly god doesn’t have a gender, like mandarin.

    if you know what god wants, tell us. if you don’t know, get out of the religion business.

  • Kellie

    I could never belong to any church that looked at me as a second-class citizen and not good enough for it’s highest position. I will never understand women who follow organizations that think less of them then they do of men. Unbelievable in this day and age that this still happens anywhere.

  • Allison

    Shame on you – get out of the dark ages!

  • Davette

    Much of the “strength” organized religion posesses is derived by instilling fear in it’s followers. They do not encourage a true union with god but instead encourage feelings of guilt and a debt owed. Perhaps banning women is a beautiful opportunity that will cause many to fall away from these notions and find their true nature more quickly than if they were allowed to serve as priests.

  • Sinclair

    For all the positive intentions in this Global Conversation about the importance of valuing and loving all people, and fostering an “Us” mindset, I keep noticing an inability to recognize conservatives as anything other than Stupid, Bigoted People Who Disagree with Me and My Smart, Enlightened Friends.

    In Neale’s article, the articles he mentions and the CoE leadership quoted in both, there is no attempt to understand the conservative laity who voted down female bishops. Instead there is a barely disguised contempt that the ordinary Anglicans who pay the salaries and bills for the Church of England should dare vote to keep the Church as it has been for hundreds of years instead of acquiescing to the demands of their leaders’ progressive agenda.

    Missing from all these articles is the context that there is a serious, ongoing civil war between liberals and conservatives throughout the Anglican Communion. I attended Episcopal churches in the 2000s and have watched this struggle with interest.

    Conservative Anglicans are less concerned with whether bishops have vaginas as they are with keeping the traditional Church against the ongoing liberal pressures to transform it to a kind of Anglican-flavored, social justice Unitarianism, which is pretty much the story of the American Episcopal Church, and that is what conservatives wish to avoid.

  • Sinclair

    Liberal Episcopalians and Anglicans believe that their agenda for women and gays is not only right but opens the Church to more members. This sounds good on paper; however, this expectation is not borne out in practice. Liberal Christian denominations are shrinking across the board.

    The American Episcopal Church, for instance, has seen 10-20% decreases in attendance since 2000. Likewise, the other mainstream churches in America and in Europe which have gone liberal and are hemorrhaging members.

    It is the conservative, evangelical denominations which are holding their own or growing worldwide. And in the full Anglican Communion, conservatives far outnumber liberals.

    So whose church is it and how are such decisions to be made? The mostly liberal leaders who wish to move the church in progressive directions? Or the conservative majority of members who pay the bills and find important meaning in their lives in the traditional church?

    Should the Church of England hierarchy just keep making the laity vote until they get it “right”?

    I don’t claim to have the answers. But anyone reading Neale’s articles on Anglican churches would do well to be aware that issues are deeper and thornier than he presents them.

    The current Anglican Communion is barely held together by patches and compromises that are fraying before our eyes. This vote on women bishops is another instance.

  • Sinclair

    Here’s a link to a column by a liberal Anglican explaining why he voted against the female bishop measure, even though he supports female priests and female bishops.

    The article is intricate, being based on church law and precedent, as well as promises made to conservatives during previous discussions of women’s issues. The author believes that the female bishop measure betrays those promises

    In a nutshell the author is concerned with respectfully moving the whole Church of England along, rather than presenting its conservatives with an ultimatum of “We’re right, you’re wrong; if you don’t like it, leave.”

    In the final analysis there may be no way for the Church of England, or the Anglican Communion, to manage these seemingly irreconcilable liberal/conservative conflicts without rupturing, but in the meantime they are trying, and that’s an important part of the story that readers won’t find in Neale’s articles.