The Church of England moved another step closer to an unbridgeable schism between traditionalists and reformers on Saturday when its General Synod, or parliament, rejected a bid by the archbishop of Canterbury to strike a compromise over the ordination of women bishops aimed at preserving the increasingly fragile unity of the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The rejection of proposals aimed at accommodating those who oppose women bishops appeared to strike a serious blow to the authority of the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, whose position as archbishop of Canterbury makes him the spiritual leader of the Communion. Although he has a long-established reputation as a liberal on theological issues, the archbishop, 60, has spent much of his seven years as the Anglican leader seeking to fashion compromises with traditionalists over the role of women and gays as priests and bishops.
But the votes on Saturday appeared to have blocked, perhaps conclusively, a settlement under which hard-line traditionalists might have accepted the appointment of women bishops. The proposals would have provided for a “complementary” male bishop with independent powers, working alongside a woman bishop, to minister to traditionalists unwilling to accept a woman as the head of their diocese.