I was just approaching the turn off to Swindon when I heard that the measure to ordain women as bishops had been defeated. I was taken aback by the feeling that came over me as I heard this news. It was quite simply one of devastation.
Although I had been aware that the vote in the House of Laity was being projected as being very tight down to the wire as Bishop Mike described it I think I could not allow myself to imagine this happening. After all the work that had gone on to find a via media, not least through the bishops, it has fallen through a handful of votes among lay members of General Synod.
Speaking on Radio Swindon/Wilts I felt this was not a time to hide my feelings or put a gloss on the result. The plain fact is that this will not be understood by the majority of people in the country or our churches. As a female colleague said to me, once again this sends out a signal that women are a problem for the Church. It confirms the perception that we live in a parallel universe, it demotivates church members and their leaders, and it locks us into further protracted wrangling and debates in which society at large has increasingly less interest.
I feel deeply for our women clergy in the Diocese and further afield and recognise the pain this will bring. I believe we had reached a position where people with differing perspectives and needs could be respected and held together. Given what has already been done to achieve this I cannot see something much better being forthcoming in the future.
We say the Church of England is Episcopally led and synodically governed. This result raises clear questions about that balance and the health of our structures. As Bishop Mike has written in his Press Statement it will need time for those who feel as I do to process this.
In following Jesus Christ the Church of England can expect to receive many wounds but they feel so much more painful when they are self-inflicted.