Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No one much cares what the Church of England says about sex. That includes most churchgoers. But those who play a part in deciding its line on such things mind more than enough to make up for the rest. All the same, after a mere 20 years, sometime on Wednesday afternoon, the Church of England will almost certainly set in motion the process for appointing women bishops.

In less than a year in office, the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has defused an existential crisis. It is a notable success, but it is unlikely that the conservative wing of the church will abandon its opposition to modernisation merely because it has been defeated. In their long defence of the last bastion, traditionalist groups have developed a political expertise that Bismarck would have admired. But they have also got too sharp for their own good. In defence of their version of doctrinal purity, this time last year they overplayed their hand. They narrowly defeated a tortuous compromise that would have left women as second-rank bishops with only limited authority, and thus provoked a crisis on such a scale that it seemed parliament might step in and force the church into submission. The proposals that synod will consider on Wednesday are the direct result of a really nasty shock to the system that no one is quite ready to risk again.

Read it all.

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