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Devastation over women bishops vote

Supporters of the failed legislation to ordain women bishops said they were "devastated" with many saying they felt they had been betrayed by the lay members of the General Synod who voted against it.

At St Matthew's Church in Westminster, where many of those who had taken part in the vote gathered afterwards, there was a sense of great disappointment.

Sally Barnes, of the campaign group Watch, said she and her colleagues were "very angry".

She said: "My initial reaction is one of deep sorrow at the missed opportunity, especially as we know that the House of Bishops really wanted it to go through.

"The House of Clergy have been really supportive and wanted it to go through, and it failed by just six votes.

"As we suspected it might have been, it was down to a very, very small number in the House of Laity.

"We've always said the House of Laity was unrepresentative of people in the Church and we were right.

"We have always said that the way of voting people into the Synod needs a wider electorate to get a wider representation of views because they've gone against the stated view of the wider Church."

She said those that were against the proposal had failed to appreciate "the enormous generosity of a large number of women priests that supported them in making concession after concession" in the draft legislation.

"We've worked hard for years, there's not much more we could have done," she added.

"We're very angry at the moment and we're going to examine carefully all the votes."

April Alexander, a lay General Synod member from Southwark Diocese, said: "It is the very essence of discrimination.

"It makes me wonder to the extent the General Synod is representative of parishioners at large and I wonder about the voting system if 74% voted in favour but we still lost it.

"What it's saying to women clergy is that the Synod's view is that as a woman they are unworthy of being a priest or a bishop."

The Rev Canon Robert Cotton, from Guildford, said: "There is a lot of fury that we are letting people down.

"This is not about the Church, this is about England.

"Everyone in Parliament has said, 'why don't you get your message out there as the one organisation that can speak to the poor and disadvantaged in England as the Church of England?'

"What we're about is trying to speak to those in most need of help - the youth unemployed, the homeless.

"That's what the Church of England represents, and without the women's voice you can't do that."

Criticising those that voted against it, he added: "That whole debate is about protecting those who already in the club."

Sources close to Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who is also equalities minister, said: "Whilst this is a matter for the church, it's very disappointing as we seek to help women fulfil their potential throughout society."

Christina Rees, a campaigner for women bishops, said the result was a "disaster".

She added: "It's a real shame. I really thought it would go through, most of the Synod is in a state of shock.

"Seventy-four per cent of the Synod said yes, but it had to have a two thirds majority in each house - it only failed in the House of Laity.

"I think it's a betrayal of trust in the wider church."

The Rev Rachel Weir, of the campaign group Watch, said: "We're absolutely devastated.

"Not just devastated on behalf of clergywomen - obviously this will be an enormous blow to clergywomen, it's awful for their morale - but it's a disaster for the Church of England.

"We've spent 10 years working for this legislation.

"There's something badly wrong with the system.

"In the General Synod we have a grossly over-representational number of extremely conservative wings of the Church.

"They're not representational views from the pews, the majority of people would love to have women bishops.

"It's really tragic for us, clearly we need to have women bishops in the Church of England."

Asked what happens next, Ms Weir, from the Oxford Diocese, said: "We'll move heaven and earth to get this back on track as soon as possible."

General Synod member Susie Leafe said she believed the result was because of faults in the legislation.

She said: "I think it is really very sad that we had to get to today.

"Today was never going to be a good day.

"There were a lot of places along the way that we could have had a measure in front of us that wouldn't have been voted down, and it's very sad that this was able to go on without us facing the reality of the situation.

"I know there is a large minority in the church that feel the same way as I do. We knew it was going to be very, very close."

But she said supporters will still try and go on with their fight, adding: "We'll take a new piece of paper and we'll start again and we'll find a way of doing this.

"Churches will still be open on Sunday."

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