Tomorrow there is a general debate in the House of Commons on women bishops. I have met with and spoken to many constituents and church leaders on this issue. On thursday I am also looking forward to a breakfast meeting with Bishop Justin Welby. I know that Bishop Justin, soon to be Archbishop, is keen to sort out the 'anomaly' of having women priests, but not women bishops, but that he is also a respecter of the church democratic process.
I want women Bishops. But I am strongly of the view that by far the best outcome for everyone will be for the church to resolve its own issues. That is what I shall be arguing if I get the chance to speak tomorrow. To be fair there exists maybe a dozen MPs [at most] out of 650 who are so exorcised by the failure to allow women bishops under the church's own democratic system that they wish to seek parliament to change the rules. Given the amount of issues that our parliamentary members disagree upon a majority of 640 to a dozen is amazing. There is zero prospect of parliamentary action.
The last word on this issue should go to one of my local priests who wrote very eloquently:
"It is worth reminding ourselves that there will be women bishoips, the principle has already been decided. We've failed in the small print." She added that whilst the press focused on division and difficulties the press gallery was empty when the Synod discussed youth unemployment and supporting better wages for the poorest in our society. On that point I sympathise! For my part, I am confident that women bishops will happen, and the church should be given time to resolve this matter itself. But the final word should go to Bishop Martin of Newcastle who commented wisely that the Church "remains lovingly and faithfully at the service of the people of England".
I could not agree more. As we approach a cold winter, with genuine economic problems and considerable ongoing social deprivation at home, and serious conflict abroad, now is the time when we need the Church more than ever - whether the leaders of the service, or the church, are a man or a woman.