Church of England

Synod vote on same-sex relations: it was female clergy wot won it (or lost it)

The electronic voting results for the Synod motion on ‘Marriage and Same-Sex Relations after the Shared Conversations‘ have been released. As we know, in an exercise of pure democracy, Synod as a whole voted to ‘take note’ of the report. But a request was made to count the votes by Houses, and since the report failed to secure a simply majority in the House of Clergy, the motion was lost (or won, depending on one’s point of view or democratic objective).

But breaking these results down by sex illuminates a statistical significance:

synod vote

*It has been assumed, for the purposes of this analysis, that Lisa, Sally and Nikki are female, and Geoffrey, Barney and Giles are male. It is understood, in this gender-fluid age, that this may not necessarily be the case. It is further assumed that all those called Chris and Sam are male. In the presumption of patriarchy, no offence is intended. It is known that Tiffer is definitely male.

Obviously there are key variables. Since there were only three voting female bishops, and this being a Bishops’ report, there is nothing statistically noteworthy in the House of Bishops’ result: we simply cannot know whether bishops Christine, Libby and Rachel voted in accordance with their consciences (or, indeed, whether 40 male bishops all voted in accordance with their consciences, though we do know that Bishop Christopher Cocksworth’s finger slipped, so the single vote against was really in favour).

But in the House of Clergy, 78% of women voted against the motion to take note. This is what quantitative analysts would term ‘statistically significant’, not least because the proportion falls to 57% of women in the House of Laity (excluding two abstentions).

There is no reason for pointing this out other than the fact that there appears to be a high degree of correlation in the House of Clergy between same-sex matters and women’s concerns (assuming, of course, that female clergy are more concerned with issues pertaining to their gender, or feminism, or sex equality). Another way of looking at it is that – on this report at least – female clergy have disproportionately less confidence in a predominantly male episcopate than their male counterparts. Possibly fewer of them are Anglo-Catholic (or Evangelical?), and more of them incline toward liberal-Anglican theology and hermeneutics.

It would be deeply appreciated if those who are tempted to use this post to berate female clergy (or those who support them) wouldn’t do so. Really, don’t. That’s a ‘Do Not’. What is certain is that the benevolent pragmatism by which the Church of England has arrived at (and justified) women priests is changing the identity of Anglicanism. Some see that as a positive move away from prejudice, misogyny and dogmatic conservatism; others believe it to be misguided and damaging.

We now await the day when the House of Bishops approaches parity between the sexes. Then, it would appear, that such a report wouldn’t be likely ever to make it to Synod, and so catholic-minded Anglicans would never get to vote on the matter at all. The trajectory appears to be set.