According to the ongoing Church Times poll, a steady 88%+ of respondents think the General Synod made the wrong decision over handling the women bishops issue.
From what was said during the debate, apparently so did a large number of bishops, including some of the most senior in the Church of England.
This raises a serious question about the governance and nature of the Church. Are we episcopally led, and synodically governed in the sense that synods gather under the leadership of the bishop or bishops to advise on policy? Or are we simply synodically governed, meaning that the majority vote of the synod must be followed by the bishop or bishops no matter what their personal opinions may be?
If it is the former then the bishops of the Church have an opportunity to exercise their leadership and, having thanked the Synod for its advice, to decline to accept it.
If it is the latter then we are facing a novel understanding of the episcopate. However, the bishops who disagree with the General Synod’s decision, and the effect it is having already on the Church, have another opportunity, which is, rather than effecting a policy with which they disagree, to resign.
That might be regarded as ‘deserting their people’, but on the other hand, if they will not resist a policy which they believe is wrong, what else can they do?
15 July 2008