While the balance of opinion at this week's Synod appears to be tilting to the 'Yes' campaign, opponents could yet rally
A vigil in Westminster Abbey tomorrow morning will mark the start of three days that could change the Anglican church for ever. As the General Synod - the ruling body of the Church of England - meets in London tomorrow ahead of a crucial vote on Tuesday to decide whether women can be consecrated as bishops, the well-wishers in Westminster Abbey will be clasping their hands together in the hope of a smooth and harmonious vote.
But, with Synod insiders already predicting trouble, the prayers are likely to be in vain. Since the announcement of Justin Welby as the future Archbishop of Canterbury - and his use of his maiden speech in the job to throw his support behind women reaching the most senior positions in the church - many are cautiously optimistic that the measure will finally be voted through. But, if it is, it is unlikely to be without a fight. Online and email campaigns have been building grassroots support for a "yes" vote at a rapid rate. A website called Yes2womenbishops, which was set up only two weeks ago, has already had more than 11,000 visitors, and nearly 2,000 parishioners have used it to email their Synod representative.
Jody Stowell, one of the website's founders, said: "There is a groundswell of opinion now and we've had an incredible response from people who are not Synod members but want this to happen. It has been a long wait but I think we're at a moment in time now. If the General Synod representatives listen to the majority within their church, we should have a positive vote."
But there are indications already of a backlash against attempts to cajole the Synod into agreement. In a letter to The Times on Friday, more than 300 clerics, as well as the chairmen of the evangelical groups Reform and the Catholic Group, said: "We believe that our future ministries will be severely prejudiced if the General Synod votes to approve the draft measure."
Rod Thomas, chair of Reform, said: "I'm voting against the measure because it's very inadequate in the provision it makes for those who don't agree with women bishops. I think it's going to be a knife-edge vote. It's very difficult to say exactly how it's going to go."
For the legislation to be passed, it must get a two-thirds majority in all three houses of the General Synod. This is thought to be likely in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy - whose members are all serving ministers in the church. But in the House of Laity - made up of ordinary lay members of the church and usually the most conservative of the three houses - it is expected to be difficult.
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SOURCE: Independent UK