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Rowan Williams, the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, speaks with (from left) Caroline Spencer, Reverend Celia Thomson and Reverend Clare Edwards during a break in a meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, at Church House in central London, yesterday.
LONDON: The clergywoman who was widely expected to become the Church of England’s first female bishop has blasted its vote against the move, saying yesterday it had left the church’s reputation “in tatters”.
Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Jamaican-born chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II and the British parliament, said she was deeply disappointed by Tuesday’s narrow vote against women bishops by the state church’s governing General Synod.
“We have deprived the church of all those gifts that women could bring to its leadership,” the 51-year-old said. “The church’s reputation is in tatters. We cannot have have a society where women make up more than 50 percent of the population but cannot lead in the church.”
Charismatic, with closely-cropped hair and a beaming smile, Hudson-Wilkin had been widely named as one of the strongest contenders to become the Church of England’s first female bishop had Tuesday’s vote gone differently.
But the mother-of-three, who is also the vicar of two churches in impoverished areas of east London, insists she had harboured no personal ambition to take the job. “I’ve never had great ambitions. This is not a career, it is a vocation,” said the vicar, whose voice still has a gentle Jamaican lilt nearly three decades after she moved to Britain. “I personally won’t be sitting around waiting to be made a bishop — I don’t think any woman will be doing that.”
She added that if she was one day asked to take on the role, “I would need to examine whether that is what God requires of me.”
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Hudson-Wilkin came to Britain in 1985. She had always wanted to become a priest, but had to wait until 1994 for the Church of England to allow it. “You wait, in the church,” she said. “Christian history is full of waiting.”
She believes that she and other Anglicans who argue passionately for the introduction of women bishops will now have to wait at least four years before the issue can return to the agenda.
“You know, I went to Turkey recently and you can see the ruins of Christendom there. The church moves on and thrives elsewhere.”
In any case, she said, the rejected proposals were far from perfect — they would have allowed parishes to reject the authority of a woman bishop and force the appointment of a stand-in male.
“It would not have been ideal,” she said. “There were a lot of sacrifices being made. And at the end of the day, you’ve got to say, is it worth the sacrifice?”
Hudson-Wilkin became a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth — the Church of England’s supreme governor — in 2007, and chaplain to the speaker of parliament in 2010.
The congregation at her parish in east London — which she describes as “a challenging place” — are, like her, disappointed by the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. “They’re ashamed of the church,” she said. afp