Page last updated at 19:53 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Debate on women bishops

MPs held a backbench business debate on the Church of England Synod vote on women bishops on 12 December 2012.

In November the General Synod of the Church of England - the church's "parliament" - voted narrowly against the appointment of women as bishops.

The measure was passed by the Synod's Houses of Bishops and Clergy but was rejected by the House of Laity.

Speaking in the Commons, former minister Ben Bradshaw said everyone within the church thought women bishops was a "done deal".

A two-thirds majority was required in all three houses for a measure to pass. Although more than half of lay members voted in favour of women bishops the number fell six votes short of the required threshold.

Mr Bradshaw said the reforms must go through in months, not years, and that senior Church of England clergy should ask Parliament for help if they cannot change the rules to allow women bishops.

This could include amending the Equality Act which currently exempts the Church of England from allowing women to access its senior positions, he argued.

Conservative MP Martin Vickers said Parliament should "nudge the Church in the right direction" and told MPs "we should not completely rule out taking the matter into our own hands".

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes said he did not understand "why we are having to revisit this issue after so long".

He said nothing in scripture passages of the early church should prohibit women bishops.

But Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox urged Parliament to stay out of the issue.

"This is a matter relating to the Church, this is beyond political propaganda, the crudity of political discourse. These things we are dealing with are precious," he said.

He added: "We should not complain, we should not tell the Church you failed to do your duty. The constitutional threshold was there for a reason - it was there to ensure this change, or any similar change was introduced, of so fundamental a matter it carried the overwhelming weight of the Church."

Mr Cox told MPs it was "inevitable" there would be women bishops but said this was not something he could support.

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