Female bishops debate

July 13, 2012, 10:39 AM GMT+0

55% Brits say C of E should allow female bishops, 12% say no, 30% no opinion; as vote postponed

More than half of the British public are in support of the Church of England appointing women as bishops, while just over one in ten feel that legislation to allow women bishops should not be passed, our poll results show, coming at a time when the General Synod of the Church of England is still considering how to accommodate the controversial issue.

  • 55% think the Church of England should allow the appointment of female bishops
  • 12% think the Church of England should not appoint female bishops
  • 30% have no opinion either way (and 4% say they don't know)

Women more in favour

Perhaps expectedly, there are some notable differences between men and women on this particular topic, with more women in support of female bishops being appointed than men, whereas a higher percentage of men have no opinion either way.

  • Just over three fifths of female respondents (61%) voted in favour of allowing women to be appointed as bishops in the Church of England, while just under half of men agree (48%)
  • Just under one sixth of men say the Church of England shouldn’t appoint female bishops (15%) compared to fewer than one in ten women (9%)
  • More men are inclined to not have an opinion either way, whereas fewer women are as indifferent to the issue (34% men vs. 25% women)

After twelve years of division on the issue, a historic vote to approve legislation allowing the Church of England to appoint women bishops was postponed this week following a heated debate at the general Synod. The Synod voted by 288 votes to 144, with 15 abstentions, to delay a final vote on the issue until at least November.

Amendment enshrines discrimination

The decision to postpone the vote came after gender equality advocates felt unable to approve the legislation, after the House of Bishops added a last minute amendment to provide stronger safeguards protecting anyone opposing female leadership.

The amendment proposed a compromise deal that would allow parishes who do not accept women bishops to specifically request a male bishop. Supporters of female bishops felt that the amendment would further enshrine gender discrimination within the church, and so chose to opt for an adjournment in the hope that the extra time will cause senior clergy to face increased pressure to concede to their concerns.

The House of Bishops, which will meet in September, now faces the difficult task of forming new legislation that appeals to both sides of the divide. The newly worded legislation is expected to return to synod in November.

See the survey details and full results