My Take: Vote on female bishops flawed
The Church of England's General Synod was held in London this week.
November 21st, 2012
12:01 PM ET

My Take: Vote on female bishops flawed

Editor's note: Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio is an ordained Episcopal Church priest and author of "God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom."

By Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio, Special to CNN

(CNN) - On Tuesday, the Church of England voted against the consecration of female bishops, which means that for now at least, while women are able to become priests and deacons, they are unable to assume the leadership responsibilities that come with the miter.

But just because the Church of England voted down allowing female bishops does not mean female bishops don’t exist within the denomination in other parts of the world.

The Church of England is the historic origin of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and it’s structured somewhat like the United States. Within the Communion are provinces, kind of like states, and these provinces are by and large autonomous, with their own governing bodies and legislations.

Which means that while female bishops are prohibited in England, they are accepted in other provinces like New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the United States.

Church of England rejects female bishops by six votes

While those opposed to opposed to female bishops interpret church history and the Bible differently than those who approve of them do, the truth is that at least at this moment in the Church of England, fancy theological reasons are not the reason for this decision.

This vote has more to do with a quirky voting system than it has to do with doctrinal or cultural differences between the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Let me explain what I mean: As many Americans know from the recent election, it is technically the Electoral College and not individual voters who choose the president. Which means scenarios can arise where one candidate wins the popular vote while another triumphs in the Electoral College. Americans know how painful, costly and time-consuming it can be when the voting system doesn’t match popular sentiment: see the Bush vs. Gore election in 2000.

And that’s pretty much what happened on Tuesday. See, the Church of England is organized by a legislative body called General Synod, which is sort of like the church’s version of Congress. That body is divided into three houses: one composed of bishops, one composed of clergy and one composed of laity.

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All three voted on female bishops, and a majority favored them in each: The House of Bishops voted 44-03, the House of Clergy voted 148-45, and the House of Laity voted 132-74.

So what went wrong? It turns out that legislation isn’t approved by a simple majority in General Synod but rather by a two-thirds majority in all three houses. So while more than 66% of each of the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy voted in favor of female bishops, only 56% of the House of Laity did the same.

And so the vote failed.

The irony is that well over 50% of all representatives voted in favor of female bishops (62% in total), and previous meetings of individual dioceses in the Church of England led to 42 of 44 of these groups approving female bishops (a diocese is sort of the equivalent of a congressional district). Moreover, previous research shows that more than 75% of members of the church approve female bishops.

So well over a majority of members of the Church of England want to see women hold the episcopate, just as they do in the United States.

But the voting system didn’t validate that.

Ultimately, I believe, the Church of England will ordain women as bishops. The timeline may drag, and quirks like this may happen again, but what Tuesday’s vote made clear is that the public desire for female bishops in England has changed from what it was even five or 10 ago.

Today, a majority of the news reports and editorials about the vote are not about divisiveness within the church or opposition to female bishops but rather about why the vote went wrong: From the prime minister to well-respected bishops, priests and laypeople, editorial after editorial proclaims dissatisfaction with the result of General Synod’s decision.

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Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned from Tuesday’s decision has nothing to do with the theological merits for or against female bishops but rather has much more to do with an organizational system that failed to represent the overwhelmingly popular opinion that it’s OK for someone with breasts to wear a miter.

On Wednesday, the Synod will meet to discuss ramifications of the vote. My hope is that the Church of England, as an organization, will find a way to affirm what those in the United States already affirm. But even more important, my hope is that they will affirm what many in England wish for their church’s future.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Anglican • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    November 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • hal 9001

      I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".

      I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:

      I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...

      November 26, 2012 at 12:01 am |
    • TrollAlert

      "Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
      "Salvatore" degenerates to:
      "Douglas" degenerates to:
      "truth be told" degenerates to:
      "Thinker23" degenerates to:
      "Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
      "another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
      "Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
      "tina" degenerates to:
      "captain america" degenerates to:
      "Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
      "Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
      "just sayin" degenerates to:
      "ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
      "Kindness" degenerates to:
      "Chad" degenerates to
      "Bob" degenerates to
      "nope" degenerates to:
      "2357" degenerates to:
      "WOW" degenerates to:
      "fred" degenerates to:
      "!" degenerates to:
      "John 3:16" degenerates to:
      "pervert alert" is the degenerate.

      This troll is not a christian

      November 26, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      November 26, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  2. Dave

    Dave, from Australia.
    I just got my ex back, we are happily in love just like old times, she left me for another guy 2weeks ago just because i didn't buy her something so expensive on her birthday, she said i dont love her that i could not appreciate her on her birthday.
    So she left for another guy who has been asking her out for about 2months now. There was no other way i could prove to her its not what she thinks, i called her phone more than 3thousand times a day but she wont answer my, instead she black list me number that i can no longer call her with my number., this happened for a week, than i found a lady email on line who they say she does spell work to bring back lover, her email is priestessifaa@yahoo.com, i contacted her and she warned me to that if she brings her back, i should respect and adore her and make her know that she's everything to me. I was so surprise how the spell lady knew that i dont care for her.
    Well i learnt my lessons that not until you lose what you have, you wont know its value. The spell lady asked me for some information and pictures and proceed with the spell to return my love back to me, and in 2days later i received a call from her asking to me were i was, it was to unusual because she has not done that for week now.
    I was on top of the world when she came back to me and told me that she has broken up with the other guy because she notice that she cant do without me, and that was the exact words the spell lady said that she's going to tell me when she comes back.
    I am so thankful like never before for having my lover back, the priestessifaa@yahoo.com spell lady is the perfect one to meet on problems.

    November 25, 2012 at 10:29 am |
  3. ronvan

    INTERPRETATION, BLIND OBEDIENCE, DESCRIMINATION, FALSE WORSHIPPING: These terms, and many more, exsist within ALL religions! Each religion "interprets" their religion to meet their teachings! They expect, demand, that you follow these teachings, "blindly" without qestion! IF you raise to many questions, poof, your out! The FACT that women are descrimated within religion makes them hyprocrites, living in the past! DO NOT pray, worship, false gods or prophets?
    YET, we can see alot of that in todays world. WHO of you can say, without doubt, that our religious books, the bible, are TOTALLY accurate? Another two words come to mind. BELIEF & FAITH!

    November 25, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  4. Leif

    I do not believe in God, but God has some nice friends. They are nicer than most of my fellow atheists/agnostics. Thank you, non-existent God. Thank you for surrounding me with people who believe in you in spite of the fact that I do not.

    November 24, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  5. Leif

    The Church of England is still ahead of Rome.

    November 24, 2012 at 6:45 am |
  6. kindness

    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    November 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • Leif

      What does any of that lengthy scrawl have to do with this issue?

      November 24, 2012 at 6:44 am |
  7. Capricorn

    Why women even want to be a part of any religion completely baffles me.

    November 22, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • Leif

      Then you should try opening your mind.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:53 am |
    • End Religion

      "open minds" lead to buying snake oil and swamp land in Florida. You have a brain. Used effectively one sees religion is a scourge on mankind.

      November 24, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  8. 200 TON HAMMER

    When will European wake up and realized that the Torah will never Change History is Going too Repeat it self.its a matter of Supernatural time frame.the today modern. European will have too come too Grips with Facts of True Supernatural Unlimited Powers Of The God of the Hebrews.Genesis 12:3 Genesis 14:13 Acts 21:38 Jonah 1:9 Romans 11:1

    November 22, 2012 at 2:40 am |
    • single celled organism

      Why do they let you use the internet in the insane asylum? Why are you commenting on an English language site when you don't know any English grammar?

      November 22, 2012 at 5:08 am |
    • 200 TON HAMMER

      European like your self are mad when you procreate with blacks your babies all come out black

      November 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • 200 TON HAMMER

      And by the way @single cell the 12 Hebrew Isrealite Tribes are not all back in Yisreal.since you have hope in a falsehood European man made religion

      November 22, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Leif

      When will I wake up to the fact that I should not respond to the loonies who post their lunacy on the internet?
      When, I ask myself as I eat another apple turnover while scratching my balls as I watch my favorite moveie for the 100th time.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:57 am |
  9. andrewlitclass

    Here's an idea:

    If you're not Anglican (and particularly if you're not Christian), why don't you mind your own business?

    I'm not, and I intend to.

    If you sign up for a club, you follow the rules. Otherwise, start your own.

    November 22, 2012 at 2:08 am |
    • single celled organism

      The Church of England is the official state church. They are represented in the house of Lords. You don't have a choice to just "not join the club".

      November 22, 2012 at 5:06 am |
    • Leif

      If a club has an impact on the lives of those who aren't members, then they have every right to make it their business.

      November 24, 2012 at 6:48 am |
  10. Sam Yaza

    there just following scripture if you don't like it don't be a christian. but if your going to be a christian then be a christian

    follow the rule and be submissive

    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:12

    you signed up for it

    as Christians say no one put a gun to your head so follow or go to hell

    if you want to be respected and venerated guess what

    we used to do that

    so be a pagan

    were woman have all the authority

    November 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • single celled organism

      Please learn a little English before you comment on an English language board.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:10 am |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    November 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
    • single celled organism

      Prayer only changes things in your mind. It can not impact the outside environment.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • Scott715

      Nothing fails like prayer. You are just talking to your imaginary friend and then acting on your own decisions that you take to be the will and desire of God. Grow up and read a science book!

      November 22, 2012 at 5:51 am |
    • truth be told

      Without prayer there would be no science.

      November 22, 2012 at 6:03 am |
    • midwest rail

      tbt – I believe you are flat-out wrong, but Happy Thanksgiving anyway.

      November 22, 2012 at 6:06 am |
    • truth be told

      Right back at you. This is America, you can be wrong if you want to be. Happy Thanksgiving.

      November 22, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  12. Babalawo Funfun

    I an British and though I have no African blood at all, I have chosen to practice Ifa, the spiritual tradition of the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin. I pray to an infinite numer of deities, I consult an oracle, I perform animal sacrifice. Obviously I would be called primitive by the CoE, and yet in my religion men and women have the same rights. I do not even want to imagine what atheists and agnostics would call me!

    November 21, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Athiests

      We'd call you Larry.

      November 21, 2012 at 6:30 pm |
    • Akira

      Now *that's* funny, I don't care who you are.

      November 21, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Mr. Funfun,

      beliefs like that are often called Shamanism or sometimes tribal religion.

      You must be awfully busy praying to an infinite number of deities? Where do you find the time?

      November 21, 2012 at 7:03 pm |
    • single celled organism

      The Romans converted to Christianity in the 3rd Century because they thought praying to only one god instead of many would be a big time saver. Unfortunately, it must have been the wrong god because their empire quickly crumbled after that.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:13 am |
    • NII

      The Roman Empire's initial decline was started by Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd Century when he decided to close the borders, stop further conquests and persecute Christians. unfortunately each of these three policies were far advanced by the time the Emperor Justinian Caesar converted the Empire to Christianity about a hundred years after Constantinus Caesar had granted toleration of Christianity. Note also that the predominantly pagan Western Empire crumbled a thousand years before the predominantly Christian Eastern Empire. Simplistic analogies don't cut it.

      November 22, 2012 at 5:58 am |
  13. Badda Bing

    It's a good thing the Harry Jesus Potter scholar-ditz bipped in to let us know what our opinions are.

    Whatever would we do without her insights?

    November 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  14. Reality

    Said religion was founded by a killer-king. Why in the 21st century do people still belong? The Three B Syndrome, i.e. Bred, Born and Brainwashed and in this case Episcopalian stupidity.

    November 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • NII

      Didn't take you for a sage but oh well those long spam posts could be your OCD speaking.

      November 22, 2012 at 6:02 am |
  15. donn

    What does God said the qualification a bishop is I Timothy 3:1-7 This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop,[a] he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money,[b] but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

    If you was allowed to be a bishop on some men appoint, do you truely think that make you a bishop in the sight God. Thta is what matter the most.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
    • End Religion

      so you say. Or at least, you try to say.

      November 21, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • Colin

      First Timothy was a forgery. That is well accepted by Biblical scholars.

      November 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm |
  16. Chris

    Thankfully the Church of England has done the right thing in exposing further their irrelevance in modern society. With any hope, this will lead to a faster demise of religion in the UK and we'll all be better off for it.

    November 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Tony

      Its a false religion anyway, there is no salvation in the COE

      November 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      No one can "save" you from the Human Condition. It's never happened, and will never happen, church or no church.
      BTW for those of you who actually think that the Protestant Reformation actually began with Henry VIII, you couldn't be more wrong. 100 years before, Becket agreed to sign the Consti'tutions of Clarendon, in order to be allowed back into the country from exile in France. When (Saint) Thomas a Becket actually got back, he proved to be a liar, and refused to sign them. The stripping of the Roman Church's power and monopoly had begun long before Henry VIII.

      November 21, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  17. Bootyfunk

    sounds like she's making excuses for the misogyny of the church. chrisitanity hates women. read the bible. women rate somewhere around donkeys in the bible. the only good woman in the bible is a virgin. what does that tell you about what the authors of the bible thought of women?

    November 21, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      no Ms.Tumminio presented very clear data that shows that Anglicans generally do favor the consecration of female bishops – most notably by 94% of the existing male bishops – which I think refutes the mysognistic argument.

      The synod's voting process clearly impacted the result. I thought this article was much more helpful on the discussion than yesterday's piece.

      November 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      GOP – It looks to me as if the synod is set up such that rapid, whimsical changes to legislation in the church are forcibly slowed down through the process much the way checks and balances work in our Federal system. While frustrating to those seeking implementation of new agendas, I suspect wiser heads had good reasons to build such safe guards in to both systems.

      November 21, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • and as always

      footybunk is wrong

      November 21, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
  18. Russ

    Consider: all the mainline churches that have taken this tact (which requires ignoring clear biblical teaching) are shrinking. The "it'll ultimately happen" approach seems to forget that.

    And notice, the regions in which the Anglican communion is actually growing (like Africa) have already or are looking to break away from what they regard as an increasingly apostate group.

    The underlying reason will be missed by most here who simply see this as a women's rights issue. The method of interpreting the Bible necessary to "vote for" women as spiritual leaders (when applied consistently across the breadth of the Bible, as it inevitably is in such groups) loses fundamental teachings of the faith. In so doing, much more central teachings about the person and work of Jesus come into question.

    For the cynic who regards this as a power struggle, it's just another case of "the boys club."
    But for the Christian who cares about the Jesus one meets in reading the Bible, it's the very faith that's at stake.

    November 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Russ

      Further: Consider me an idiot.

      November 21, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • NII

      Africans are accepting female Anglican priests and bishops. It is h.o.m.ose.xu.alit.y we will never accept. Get your facts straight!

      November 23, 2012 at 4:56 am |
    • Russ

      @ Russ #2: your creativity is astounding.

      @ Nii: not only are you denying the premise of the article (that there is a debate), but you're also claiming to represent all of Africa. Here's some more "news" to the contrary:

      Also, the hermeneutical point still stands. The method of interpreting necessary to *ignore* those passages that speak clearly to spiritual leadership is the underlying problem. And – despite your ability to see it – it is the reason other folks within your church are advocating g.ay bishops. they're simply using the same hermeneutic you have (to justify female bishops by *ignoring* passages like 1 Tim.2:12-13), only now applied to Rom.1:26-27; etc.

      November 23, 2012 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Mohammad A Dar

    Churches are known to be 100 years behind, in anything they do. People with dinosaur's mentality what else?

    November 21, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      100 years behind???? Try 1000

      November 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • Leif

      Yet the best people I know are members of a church. I am an atheist, but I prefer to surround myself with believers. They are niicer than you are.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Leif

      You are both mentally ill. And I feel sorry for both of you.

      November 24, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  20. noodles doodles and toodles

    The crusty old farts will die off. Women bishops are inevitable. Such idiotic nonsense. And The QUENN has to approve ?
    Just dump the whole system.

    November 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
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