Humiliation for Archbishop as Church rejects his last ditch compromise on women bishops

Defeated: Dr Rowan Williams risked his moral authority trying to force through a compromise on women bishops

Defeated: Dr Rowan Williams risked his moral authority trying to force through a compromise on women bishops

The Archbishop of Canterbury suffered a humiliating blow yesterday after his efforts to force through a last ditch compromise on women bishops was rejected.

Dr Rowan Williams risked his moral authority by attempting to persuade the Church of England's ' Parliament' to accept proposals aimed at preventing thousands of opponents of women bishops quitting the Church.

Under the proposals, woman bishops would have retained their authority in principle, but in practice would allow traditionalists to serve under acceptable male bishops.

But after a tense debate in York, the compromise package he introduced jointly with the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu was narrowly voted down.

Many members of the Church's liberal-dominated General Synod, including a number of his fellow bishops, said his proposals were misguided as they would undermine the status of women. One woman priest said the compromise was 'a source of such sadness, such dismay I am compelled to oppose it'.

Critics will seize on the outcome as fresh evidence of Dr Williams's waning influence over a Church already divided over gay bishops.

The Synod's decision to throw out his compromise means that thousands of traditionalists opposed to female clergy are likely to quit the Church when women are finally allowed to become bishops in 2014.

One senior opponent of women bishops said last night: 'This is a disaster. Many of us will now join the Roman Catholic Church. The Church of England will never be the same again.'



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Traditionalists had warned that they cannot accept the authority of women bishops, so they could not stay in the Church unless they won significant concessions to protect their consciences.

But liberals said any such concessions are unacceptable because they would mean women bishops would not be equal to their male counterparts.

The proposals won the support of a majority of bishops and lay members of the Synod, but were narrowly defeated by clergy members.

Sources close to Dr Williams said he had no intention of resigning. One said: 'He offered his thoughts to the Synod. The Synod did not agree. But at least it had the opportunity to think through the issues.'

But colleagues admitted both his and Dr Sentamu's authority had been dented.

One said: 'It was a high-risk strategy for both Archbishops to intervene like this, and it seems to have backfired.'

The Synod will continue debating the draft legislation on women bishops tomorrow, but it is now expected to go through with few changes.

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