A serious and painful moment

Simon Harvey writes,

I thought yesterday was going to be a good day. I talked with three people who don't belong to any church about the relevance of the Christian faith. They were all intelligent and capable and they were all women. In each of these conversations about the gospel, the issue of women bishops was briefly raised. I was pleased to be able to tell them that, like the overwhelming majority of the Church of England, I am fully in favour of women's leadership in every area and I predicted it wouldn't be long before the first women would become bishops.

In the evening, I was shocked that the processes and systems of the Church of England let us down badly. The measure that enabled women to become bishops was defeated by a handful of votes under a system that's complicated and unrepresentative. The debate spiralled into self-preoccupation and became a grim parody of the church. We wounded ourselves, misrepresented God and let down our nation.

This is a serious and painful moment for the church and simply bewildering to most of the population. The job of making the case for God in parishes up and down the country became significantly harder last night. Many, many people are hurt and angry.

Now we're reflecting on where this leaves us. In recent months I have lobbied for a positive vote, urged, written, tweeted and blogged. I wish I'd done more.

There's a deepening resolve to put this right as soon as we can. To every woman who senses God's call to ministry but who wonders whether the church really is sufficiently inclusive to welcome them I want to be encouraging. Overwhelmingly the Church of England wants to support you. And at St Mary's, we promise to treasure and nurture the ministry of women as well as men in our church.

We need all their gifts and their leadership. Today we need their forgiveness too.

Update 25 November 2012 - a longer personal statement is now available.