Just when you thought the beleaguered Church of England couldn’t possibly decrease its stock any further, a miracle happens.
Just 10 days after the new Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of his aversion “to the language of exclusion”, members of the General Synod, the governing body over which Justin Welby now presides, failed to carry a motion on as simple premise as: Let’s treat everyone the same.
Instead, having failed to gain a two-thirds majority in favour of ordaining female bishops, the CofE remains officially an organisation that sanctions discrimination against half the population.
Yes – the verdict was close, with the bishops and a clergy voting overwhelmingly in favour of the motion and only the house of Laity voting against.
But that is no mitigation against the fact that legislation was not passed on a principle as basic as equal rights for women – the unwillingness of provincial Anglicans to compromise exposing a huge division between the Bishops and the Clergy, and the Church’s representatives from the diocese.
Opponents of female ordination will no doubt see this as a victory for Christian traditionalism. That’s no doubt true, but it’s also a victory for bigotry, intolerance and small-mindedness, casting aside a much-needed opportunity to drag the 500-year-old monolith a little closer to the modern world.
Instead, the verdict exposes the CofE for exactly what it is – a lumbering, divided, grotesque whose lay members would prefer to see it wither away rather than make any accommodation with progress.
Perhaps nothing could have stopped the decline of the Church; there was no future salvation for the CofE. However, by retaining its adherence to barbaric Bronze Age doctrines that demote women to second-class citizens, the emasculation is nearly complete.
Yes – the Church of Henry has been expiring slowly and in agony for many years, but by voting against female ordination, Tuesday’s ballot may well have killed it off, pushing the spear into the side of the half dead institution as it hung limply from its cross.