This week saw the synod, the Church of England’s decision-making body, vote in favour of female bishops. Having at first been narrowly outvoted in November 2012, plans to allow women to rise to the top level of the clergy were passed overwhelmingly on Wednesday, with only a rump of ultra-traditionalists opposing or abstaining.
The outcome was described as “miraculous” by Reverend Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark. It will now go to a second vote in February 2014, at which it must get a two thirds majority. If passed it could come into effect as early as July, with implementation overseen by an independent regulator.
The vote endorses the ‘simplest possible’ model for women becoming bishops. This represents an advance on last year’s proposals, which had included ‘safeguards’ – such as men overseeing women candidates – to placate traditionalists. That the new, more progressive measures were passed this week has been attributed to a more cooperative climate in the church.
Although I am a humanist myself, I welcome wholeheartedly diversity at the top of the Church of England. Hopefully we will start to see women bishops ordained sooner rather than later.
At present the episcopacy lags behind other institutions. Unlike the boardroom and the front bench, which – in theory, at least – are open to women candidates, the so-called ‘stained glass ceiling’ remains legally reinforced. If the Church of England is to have any chance of being relevant to national life it must change this once and for all in February. As the worlds of business and politics have learnt the hard way, you can no longer connect with people unless you shed the ‘male, pale and stale’ outlook which has for so long dominated the British establishment.
This week also marked Silvio Berlusconi’s appeal case and the ongoing fight for political survival of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
Berlusconi’s appeal brought to the surface further details of the ‘bunga bunga’ parties at which he is alleged to have had sex with under-age prostitute Karima El Mahroug. The three-time Italian Prime Minister was sentenced to seven years in June, although he has still not surrendered his political position and many remain sceptical about whether he will serve his time.
Ford, meanwhile, continues to hold onto his role despite allegations of sexual harassment and prostitute use, as well as admitting to taking crack. This week he body-checked a woman to the floor while trying to attack a heckler, yet bizarrely his poll ratings have remained steady.
With political disaffection becoming more common in parts of the developed world, dangerous buffoons like Berlusconi and Ford are often able to sidetrack the political process. We must fight robustly in the UK against their way of doing things – starting with more detailed cross-examinations of UKIP, the current clown prince elect of British post-austerity politics.
Finally, this week saw the revelation that three South London women, aged 69, 57 and 30, have finally been released from 30 years of slavery at the hands of a Lambeth couple. Many of the details are yet to come out, but this is clearly a desperately sad case. The sense of wasted life is hard to believe.
Frank Field has called the story the “tip of the iceberg” and Theresa May says prostitution is “all around us”. For me this issue transcends party politics. We must unite to ensure victims are supported and culprits put to justice.