Williams to speak over bishops vote

Hillingdon Times: Dr Rowan Williams wished the Synod 'every blessing' with resolving the issue of women bishops 'in the shortest possible time' Dr Rowan Williams wished the Synod 'every blessing' with resolving the issue of women bishops 'in the shortest possible time'

The Archbishop of Canterbury is to make a statement 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.

Dr Rowan Williams is due to speak as the Church's national assembly gathers after the draft legislation was carried in the Houses of bishops and clergy in the General Synod but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority amongst lay members.

His statement will come after an emergency meeting of the Church of England bishops following the narrow defeat. 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 vote was billed as the biggest in the 20 years since the General Synod backed the introduction of women priests in 1992 and comes after 42 out of the 44 dioceses of the Church of England approved the legislation.

If the measure had received final approval, it would have gone to the Houses of Parliament before Royal Assent with the first women bishops on course to be appointed as early as 2014.

The result is a blow to Dr Williams and his successor, the Rt Rev Justin Welby, who staked their authority on a yes vote.

Speaking afterwards, Dr Williams, who leaves his post at the end of this year after a decade in office, spoke of his "deep personal sadness" at the result.

He said he wished Bishop Welby "every blessing" in resolving the issue.

He said: "Of course I hoped and prayed that this particular business would be at another stage before I left, and of course it is a personal sadness, a deep personal sadness, that that is not the case. I can only wish the Synod and the archbishop all good things and every blessing with resolving this in the shortest possible time."

Around a third of all Church of England clergy are women - they also make up just under a half of all those training for ordination.

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