/ 9 July 2012

Rowan Williams issues warning ahead of women bishops vote

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has warned the church against being drawn into "anger and indignation".
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has warned the church against being drawn into "anger and indignation".

The archbishop also warned the church against being drawn into "anger and indignation" as he acknowledged that long-running disagreements over women bishops had seen many become "profoundly frustrated".

Rowan Williams, who was delivering his sermon at York Minster on the eve of a crucial General Synod debate that has exposed deep divisions in the church, said that finding the right course of action was not always clear.

He urged those assembled in the cathedral against becoming consumed by the row and encouraged them to overcome differences.

"Many of us in the church are feeling profoundly frustrated," he said, adding later: "Most of us are frustrated with the structures of the church and are feeling that the way in which we are doing our business is at the moment preventing us from doing what we actually want to do as a church."

To scattered laughter, Williams said that frustration could often lead to anger and that anger "in well brought-up Anglicans" could often be internalised as depression. "The last thing our society or our world needs is a depressed church," he said. "That is something I hope we shall bear in mind and heart in the days ahead."

Williams had urged the church on Friday to move "as speedily as we can" towards allowing women to enter the episcopate and said he longed to see female bishops.

The synod will meet to debate draft legislation on women bishops on Monday, which, if passed, could theoretically see the church's first women bishops consecrated by the end of next year.

But due to a controversial clause added by the House of Bishops in May, senior women clergy and some other supporters are pushing for the debate to be adjourned before a vote. If they fail and the synod fails to vote by a two-thirds majority for the measure, the legislation will be shelved until 2015.

The meeting of the Synod could be Williams's last as archbishop; he will stand down at the end of the year. But if the women bishops debate is adjourned, the synod is likely to meet again for a special session in November. A scheduled farewell to the archbishop is therefore not certain to take place. – © Guardian News and Media 2012