Women Bishops – The Numbers

Women Bishops – The Numbers

All 44 dioceses have voted and the results are in. The Women Bishops legislation will return to Synod in the new year and will see the critical decision. Which way will the vote go?

At first, looking at the results from the Dioceses, it seems a fore-gone conclusion. The table below shows the votes in the different dioceses and you can see that overall the numbers voting “No” were around 23% in the houses of clergy and laity.

For Against
Diocese  Bishops Clergy Laity Bishops Clergy Laity
Bath & Wells 2 59 55 0 9 10
Birmingham 2 39 34 0 1 3
Blackburn 1 36 33 3 34 30
Bradford 1 22 22 0 9 14
Bristol 1 22 25 0 0 0
Canterbury 1 42 52 0 8 6
Carlisle 1 30 45 0 8 10
Chelmsford 2 44 44 0 11 16
Chester 2 46 50 0 21 15
Chichester 0 30 37 2 35 41
Coventry 2 35 34 0 2 4
Derby 2 18 7 0 7 10
Durham 1 34 55 0 5 6
Ely 2 39 30 0 6 10
Europe 0 10 6 2 4 3
Exeter 1 30 45 2 18 16
Gloucester 2 55 4 0 5 5
Guildford 2 31 36 0 10 15
Hereford 2 27 42 0 5 2
Lichfield 3 45 46 0 13 18
Leicester 1 35 56 0 9 3
Lincoln 2 39 40 0 9 5
Liverpool 2 40 26 0 8 12
London 2 39 45 1 41 37
Manchester 3 41 38 0 13 26
Newcastle 2 24 28 0 10 7
Norwich 3 33 31 0 12 11
Oxford 4 46 55 0 19 15
Peterborough 1 37 30 0 10 14
Portsmouth 1 36 36 0 2 6
Ripon & Leeds 2 42 30 0 3 4
Rochester 2 36 34 0 12 11
Salisbury 1 37 48 0 2 6
Sheffield 1 13 23 0 12 16
Sodor & Man 1 14 33 0 2 8
Southwark 2 50 38 0 14 13
Southwell & Nottingham 1 31 39 0 6 2
St Albans 3 43 52 0 10 7
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich 2 41 51 0 3 2
Truro 1 37 33 0 3 6
Wakefield 1 24 23 1 14 10
Winchester 2 23 37 0 21 23
Worcester 2 31 34 0 1 3
York 3 25 42 2 14 8
75 1504 1644 13 461 489
23.5% 22.9%

However, just because the diocesan synods voted in a particular way doesn’t mean that General Synod will. General Synod has always been more conservative than diocesan synods (and in the same way diocesan synods tend to be more liberal then the collective deanery synods). So the vote is not a fore-gone conclusion yet.

Let’s look back at 1992 and the Women Priests vote. Here are the Diocesan votes from the 1990 consultation process.

For Against
Diocese  Bishops Clergy Laity Bishops Clergy Laity
Bath & Wells 1 64 55 0 18 18
Birmingham 2 70 68 0 35 27
Blackburn 1 37 43 2 50 45
Bradford 1 44 48 0 21 16
Bristol 1 55 50 0 5 9
Canterbury 3 45 41 0 17 11
Carlisle 2 78 66 0 23 36
Chelmsford 3 64 64 1 38 38
Chester 1 40 47 1 33 29
Chichester 0 42 58 3 64 47
Coventry 2 56 47 0 11 16
Derby 1 68 56 0 16 19
Durham 2 49 50 0 30 29
Ely 1 73 56 0 22 25
Europe 1 8 11 2 9 9
Exeter 3 44 50 0 39 31
Gloucester 1 70 80 0 28 13
Guildford 2 33 47 0 11 11
Hereford 2 52 45 0 16 14
Lichfield 3 64 64 1 35 33
Leicester 2 43 50 0 39 32
Lincoln 3 42 50 0 13 14
Liverpool 2 72 62 0 12 19
London 0 45 45 3 57 51
Manchester 4 87 70 0 26 31
Newcastle 1 45 42 1 33 32
Norwich 2 61 69 1 22 25
Oxford 4 43 66 0 16 22
Peterborough 2 46 61 0 42 32
Portsmouth 0 37 42 1 38 31
Ripon & Leeds 2 56 56 0 34 32
Rochester 2 42 40 0 15 19
Salisbury 4 70 69 0 18 23
Sheffield 0 47 27 2 20 26
Sodor & Man 0 17 41 1 11 27
Southwark 4 50 62 0 14 14
Southwell & Nottingham 1 52 60 0 12 11
St Albans 2 56 56 0 11 20
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich 1 48 49 1 21 16
Truro 1 29 38 2 47 35
Wakefield 0 43 49 1 38 25
Winchester 1 54 45 2 29 27
Worcester 1 36 39 0 5 13
York 2 69 72 0 32 32
74 2246 2306 25 1126 1085
33.4% 32.0%

At this point during the process last time round, the “Against” figures in the dioceses were about 40% higher then they currently are. When compared to the final voting figures (Clergy 29.6% for No and Laity 32.7% for No), they indicate that support for ordaining women was higher in General Synod for clergy than in diocesan synods and equivalent for laity. Other things being equal then, we would expect neither houses this time round to reach the necessary 33.3% blocking level to prevent a super-majority being achieved (General Synod votes of this kind require a two-thirds majority in all three houses).

But if only it were that simple. When the vote was undertaken in 1992 it was on the basis of robust protection for dissenters. Parishes that objected to women bishops could effectively take themselves out of the geographical diocesan system and place themselves under a “Flying Bishop”. The motion in 1992 only received a super-majority because it was understood that those who objected were being “looked after” and this prompted many who were in two minds to vote in favour of the motion.

Last year General Synod voted on a number of amendments which sought to provide equivalent protection for dissenters under statutory powers (as opposed to just a Code of Practice). As I wrote back then, the numbers in General Synod supporting such a motion were not enough (50%) to get such a motion onto the proposed Act, but they were enough to compose more than enough votes to block a super-majority in favour of Women Bishops at this point. At the time I blogged,

I suggest that the chances of the vote failing at the last hurdle are greater then some might think, especially given the fact that the most conservative amendment (separate dioceses for dissenters) received the support of 32% of those who voted (remember it needs just over a third – 33.3% – to say “no” for the whole measure to fail). Given that the votes don’t always fall equally in each House, the chances that the final vote will fail in one or more House (I would suggest in the House of Bishops or Laity is most likely) is not insubstantial.

18 months on and we have a newly elected General Synod which most commentators agree is as conservative, if not slightly more so than the last one. Whilst it is very unlikely that there will be a mass “rebellion” in the House of Bishops, if enough laity were concerned about providing suitably robust safeguards for dissenters then it is still possible for the legislation to fail next year. Although there is clearly a super-majority in favour of women bishops in General Synod, are there a number of Synod members who would be prepared to push the whole debate off the schedule for 5 years (until the next General Synod is elected) in order to insist on a statutory basis for the protection of those who dissent?

Think this idea far-fetched? Consider this. I analysed all the votes at diocesan synods since the start of October, not just for the main motion on the substantive legislation but also secondary motions seeking to affirm some form of greater statutory protection (as envisaged by the Archbishops last year and as articulated in the CEEC motion that was offered at several diocesan synods. On average, for those synods that had such a secondary vote, the overall vote against the substantive motion was 28.0%, but the % in favour of some form of more practical accommodation for dissenters was a staggering 40.7% (1.45 times the amount of votes). Apply this multiplier to the diocesan vote figures above and suddenly the 23.5% and 22.9% clergy and laity opposing the motion becomes 34.2% and 33.3% – exactly the kind of figures necessary to dump the legislation. If you just examine the votes for a motion similar to that presented by the Archbishops, the multiplier becomes 1.64, easily enough to kick the idea of Women Bishops into touch for a decade.

All the evidence points in one direction – there is a substantial minority, enough to wreck the legislation, that believes we should have Women Bishops but also believes that a non-statutory Code of Practice is not sufficient to protect dissenters. If enough of this minority decide to vote against the substantive motion on this basis, there is more than an outside chance that they will succeed. The question now is whether the political will for such an action exists amongst this minority. It is that decision which will settle the matter just a few months from now.

With thanks to Bishop Pete Broadbent for supplying the 1990s vote figures

41 Comments on “Women Bishops – The Numbers

  1. The main problem in making any analysis of the voting figures is that comparing Diocesan Synod with General Synod is like comparing apples and oranges.

    Diocesan Synod is elected via First Past the Post (if elections take place at all – there’s no great enthusiasm to fill all the spaces anyway. It isn’t really representative of anything very much apart from having Bishops and General Synod reps ex officio – and presumably having some credibility about representing location.

    General Synod is elected via STV in multi-member constituencies, and is pretty effective at representing the whole spectrum of the Church (and the more members per diocese, the wider the spread of representation). Also, they are not delegates; they may have a constituency to represent, but they go to General Synod with no mandate.

    The disparity between the two Synods adds weight to your argument that

    1. you can’t draw much of a conclusion from the figures in Diocesan Synods (though supporters of the legislation are attempting to claim a moral victory

    2. the battle lines will be drawn much more tightly in General Synod (as in 1992), and the issue will be decided by a few votes, probably in the House of Laity.

    I’m not sure that your multipliers work, and there is a skew factor in the House of Clergy in General Synod, in that Dioceses with 3 clergy seats more often than not elect at least one woman and make the margin in the House of Clergy who are naturally in favour that much stronger.

    So I reckon it’s all down to the House of Laity, as it was 20 years ago.

    • @Pete Broadbent Thanks Pete (and thanks for finding me the 1990 vote figures).

      The idea of the multipliers is to show not what the final outcome will be (God only knows at this stage – literally) but rather that it is naive to look at the raw Diocesan votes on the substantive motion and to conclude from that that the final vote is all but decided.

      Looking back at the vote 18 months ago (a previous Convocation, I grant you) there are enough numbers to wreck the legislation if it doesn’t safe-guard traditionalists. It’s all down to political (and theological) will.

      • Theologically there are problems on both sides. A code of practice questions an understanding of Episcopacy held by Catholics of both integrities – That Priestly sacraments have their source in the Bishops. Equally removing the traditionalists from the Diocesan system also questions the role of the Diocesan bishop. No easy path sadly.

  2. Interesting analysis. I was disappointed less people considered the following motion in Oxford. The arguments in favour of it were among the most theological and pastoral of the day.

  3. I don’t think the electoral system makes any difference. It is pretty rare that Diocesan Synod members actually face election, and if they do the electorate, like that of General Synod, is already a highly self selected group. As you say, Pete, hardly representative of anything. Unfortunately this is all rather damning of the process, but there you go.

    Also, I’m wondering if I’ve spotted a flaw in the logic of the argument. Am I right in understanding the flow of this post that you’ve taken the records for the dioceses where following motions were tabled and extrapolated that across the whole population? If so, is there not a likelihood that the dioceses where following motions were tabled are the ones with the highest representation of people likely to support the following motion? Just a thought.

    Nevertheless, I agree with your overall conclusion that this could still fall when it comes to Synod, which is again rather damning of the process. After all this time and all this consultation, after passing General Synod and Diocesan Synods, it could still be thrown out wholesale.

    • @thechurchmouse What I’ve done is compare the level of support for stronger protection against support for Women Bishops per se in the dioceses that expressed an opinion on both. So the ratio I come up with is not compared to <b>all</b> dioceses but only those who expressed an opinion on both issues. That means we’re comparing like to like.

      I agree with Pete – the Diocesan to General shift is a vague one, but I wanted to try and give some idea of the fact that, despite the celebrations in some quarters, the final outcome next year is not yet certain.

  4. Just a clarification about Chichester. Before the vote on the substantive motion the Bishop asked the Diocesan Synod to vote on ‘The Chichester Questions’ the first of which was on the principle of women bishops. There was a significant majority in favour of women bishops, and this in a diocese which is traditionally seen as being highly conservative on the issue. When it came to the vote on the legislation, which is what the voting was supposed to be about, the motion was lost, but by a small majority in both the houses of clergy and laity, the bishops all voting against as you might expect. The issue in Chichester is about protection for the minority, it’s no longer about the principle.

    • @Richard Ashby And I think Chichester is a microcosm for the wider Church. As I wrote above, there is easily a super-majority for Women Bishops. The issue is whether there is a super-majority for Women Bishops <b>at any cost</b>.

  5. @loozeta why, equality act doesn’t apply to relig. orgs; being that i’m a former lawyer you’re going to have to convince me why it should.

      • @loozeta no, actually, in this case they are exempted. personally, i don’t like laws that interfere in my faith practice.

        • @Goannatree @loozeta Problem with the law not ‘interfering’ with faith is it would legitimise all sorts of otherwise illegal practices

        • @revpamsmith @Goannatree @loozeta Or, IOW, it’s always going to be a continuing fight/dialogue between differing ethics. See next tweet

  6. @Goannatree Not entirely convinced by @PeterOuld analysis. Agree there isn’t a clear position but we need to see the mood in February

  7. Does this mean that a quarter to a third of Anglicans will “do a Widdecombe” if the Synod supports woman bishops?



      • @peterould Wouldn’t a split be a solution of sorts? If the conservatives trot off to Benedict’s faux Anglican Ordinariate or one of the Evangelical splinter churches then everyone can have a church that suits them and you can all get on with your lives instead of pretending you can live together.

        From a personal perspective, an Anglican Church purged of its ultra-conservative faction would be something I might consider joining. Not of course that these matters should be decided purely for my convenience. But when relationships have degenerated to the degree they have in the Anglican Communion, surely schism is the only pragmatic solution.



        • @saekker@peterould Saekkar – This certainly doesn’t reflect my own views, but some would say that it’s a lot funnier (and possibly fairer) watching rich, gay-bashing, science-hating, Shine Jesus Shine singing, Salvation By Being Middle-Class (and Up) evangementalist churches having to pump (via quota) oodles of cash into a Real, Catholic, affirming (if only in practise), central churches that have decent standards of liturgy, vestments and behaviour towards other people. Be careful what you wish for ;-) Here in Glasgow there’s only one evangelical piskie church in the whole diocese; this is, one imagines, God’s preferred ratio ;-)

          And, all waggery aside, I think someone could ask a very pertinent point about why female bishops are something that so many nominally Calvinist Sola Scriptura types have been keen to embrace – presumably for a typically pew-filling eye for the main chance – female bishops, yet remain non-negotiable when it comes to teh gays…

        • In fairness I was describing a mind-set – not advocating it! I don’t think you could deny that some “liberals” think about evangelicals in the manner described above, with an added clause that they are “dinosaurs that will hopefully soon die out”. Obviously, as far as I’m personally concerned, I’m not the sort of person to invoke stereotypes or make offensive comments on the the internet (;-))

        • @peterould@cerebusboy Is it not worth noting that I can factually source all my allegedly “stereotypical” opinions; compare and contrast with the “predatory homosexual” type reductionism that appears, at times, to get a free pass on this blog? :-)

        • @cerebusboy@peterould I think the factual basis of many of your comments and the factual basis of the “predatory” stereotype are rather similar.

        • @Wicked conservative@peterould Actually, I’ve been attending an evangelical church – albeit off and on – since 1999, and can factually source any of my “stereotypical” opinions. In contrast, the more gay people someone knows then the more ludicrous the “predatory homosexual” style reductive demonisations appear. Indeed, I know literally zero gay people who are into fisting and crystal meth, whereas I can certainly name more than a few straight guys who aren’t averse to some (social) cocaine and (heterosexual) anal sex. Why, it’s almost as if , rather than being based in reality, homophobic characterisations of gay people are about as valid as Jew=money-grabbing, big nose or black people= watermelon, basketball, low IQ stereotypes…..

        • @cerebusboy@Wicked conservative Re Evangelical Churches, what you’re telling us is that you have a sample of one. That’s not a robust survey, that’s an anecdote.

        • @peterould@Wicked conservative No, because that presupposes that attending one church is my only (legitimate) source of opinions on evangelical culture and evangelical churches. I cite said attendance to negate the idea that I’m merely, abstractly demonising-from-afar.

          Do you expect all the conservatives on this blog – yourself included – to be attending (multiple?) liberal churches before they can pronounce on the same?

          I’ve read, for example, more than my fair chair of Wesley Owen (cited because it’s an evangelical bookstore, not as ad hom) type books. Certainly I’d love it if creationism and (to my mind) uncritical acceptance of Todd Bentley/charismatic movement were merely a local problem (or “problem”), but fair-minded perusal of relevant sources (including – and let me stress that, as can perhaps be evidenced by my frequency of contributions, that this is one of my top 3 favourite blogs on the internet- this website) hardly indicates that to be so. To be frank, I can certainly understand you criticising me if you think my *methods* of acquiring information (mere anecdotal experience) are at fault, but it’s odd that you criticise me for opiniions, that although you disagree with them (creationism, popularity of Mark Driscoll, etc) , you know are hardly invented out of whole cloth…

        • @cerebusboy@peterould The problem is, cerebusboy, that this swapping of stories is fruitless, and usually a good way to make constructive debate and truth-seeking impossible.

          If I were to judge purely on my personal interactions, and the attitudes and arguments I have encountered during fifteen years of experience as an adult churchgoer in a range of Anglican congregations (from Evangelical low church to liberal bells ‘n’ smells and a fair few points in between), and now in Catholic ones too, I would be quite entitled to conclude that:

          1. Conservative Christians are significantly more knowledgeable, honest, clear and insightful about theology, ethics and church history than revisionists.

          2. Revisionists have little or no interest in evangelisation and have a broadly Pelagian view of human nature, viewing Christianity primarily as a sort of giant social work project to improve this world. Most are de facto universalists.

          3. Sexual revisionists in particular have a theology which is incoherent and worldly and judges Scripture and tradition by modern liberal ideas rather than vice versa.

          4. Revisionists are often personally intolerant and prejudiced, and are extremely dismissive towards fellow Christians working in “unfashionable” areas such as pro-life work.

          Now, these things may or may not be true. The point is, my experience, though fairly wide, isn’t decisive in establishing whether they are or not. So why should I accept that your experience is?

        • @saekker@peterould “From a personal perspective, an Anglican Church purged of its ultra-conservative faction would be something I might consider joining.”

          This is a telling quote. The ultra-conservative business is farcical. Trashing 2,000 years of tradition to appease the secularists is the radical step. Those that hold on to it are conservative but hardly “ultra” conservative. Also, the liberals attempting to re-design the Church to appeal to the culture’s lowest common denominator has been an abysmal failure. If just compromise on yet one more element of theology, dogma, tradition, etc., that might be enough to get the likes of saeker in the door. The reality is that no one wants to bother with the watered down, insipid Church. You lose the conservatives and don’t gain the liberals. You simply have a few elderly in the pews that are too old to move on, until they die off as well.

        • @Conned@saekker@peterould The problem though is that “conservative” evangelicals are hardly preservers of tradition. It’s certainly worth noting that (to use a Prayer Books Society factoid) that , since the C of E started modernising its liturgy, it has drastically decreased in size. Try pointing that out to conservative evangelicals who prefer Shine Jesus Shine and self-indulgent guitar solos (matched by even more self-indulgent windbag sermons) to proper liturgy and celebration of Holy Communion. Of course one response to that is to say that people shouldn’t have to chose between liturgical “innovation” and the moral kind but, as donatism is a heresy, wouldn’t you rather receive the Eucharist at a “liberal” church with decent standards than bob about like a nutter at the “alt worship” services that have supplanted Holy Communion in “conservative” evangelical churches?

          And, sociological speaking, there is a good reason why even the Tory party has to at least pretend to be pro-gay these days (c.f. David Cameron appearing on the cover of Attitude, apologising for Section 28) . Had he not detoxified the party then they would have remained as unelectable as they were under Howard et all – young people are indeed less anti-gay (for example) than previous generations (one reason why the “taxpayer’s money” cant is so silly -what evidence is their that all or most taxpayers are homophobes?)

        • @Conned@saekker@peterould

          And, although evangelical churches might be big, they tend to appeal to and be filled by a narrow range of people. St.Silas in Glasgow, for example, largely consists of : middle-class professionals ; English ex-pats (who seem under the delusion that Scottish Episcopal Church is or should be another branch of George Carey type evangelical Christianity) ;bunny-boilers ; Asylum Seeker-enabling former hippies ; rich West End cultural Christians ; tinfoil hat creationist fundamentalists who wouldn’t be taken seriously in any real church ; homophobic arseholes; displaced bible-belt Americans looking for “Republican Party at Prayer” type Ann Coulter/Mark Driscoll Christianity ; wealthy Students (think Durham or St.Andrews stereotypes) who oddly choose to study in Glasgow but then seek out very unglasweigan enclaves of the “right kind of people”. Those people all need Jesus of course, but it’s hardly fufilling the Great Commission and reaching out to *all* people is it? (compare and contrast the groups mentioned with Glasgow’s wider demographics) . St.Silagers are prone to cite, if you mention that the church is a bit exclusionairily middle-class, the existence of a total junkie ned who become adopted as a kind of church mascot. Firstly, no working class person (and I’m working class) is going to be flattered at being told that their class is best exemplified by a moronic Junkie Ned. It’s like claiming to be non-homophobic because one owns some Liberace records. Secondly, the tokenistic novelty of said person’s existence and reception is in itself indicative of a problem (“ah, so you’re the working class person? How novel!” )

        • @Conned@saekker@peterould

          Todd Bentley snake-oil salesman “charismatic” churches and “prosperity gospel” heretics both have lots of fans. Isn’t , in your frameworks, responding to the flaws in the purported liberal methodology for pew-filling with a more accurate pew-filling sociological analysis just compounding their error, and so missing the point? I imagine that evangelicals could seek to “justify” their watering down of and/or offences against Holy Communion on the grounds that da kidz don’t have the time and attention for proper Christian worship these days.

  8. Just to correct some information here: in 1992 the Measure for women to be preists contained provisions for parishes of Resolutions A and B only: there was no option for parishes to ask for extended epsicopal oversight from ‘Flying bishops’ as General Synod had declined to include this in the Measure. The Measure still received 2/3 majoirites in all Houses. PEVs and extended episcopal oversight were a product of the Episcopal Act of Synod, passed by General Synod later in the process and not subject to 2/3 majoirities.

  9. I sometimes wonder what the Church of England might have achieved if, during the last fifty years or so, people had diverted just a little of the huge energy devoted to campaigns for women priests, theological and sexual revisionism, and liturgical experimentation into evangelisation for the Gospel or pro-life work.

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