‘A very sad day for the Church of England’

Canon Doris Staniford, Crawley's first female priest
Canon Doris Staniford, Crawley's first female priest

The first female priest in Crawley has spoken of her sadness after the Church of England voted against the ordination of women bishops.

Canon Doris Staniford said it was a ‘very sad day for the Church of England’ and felt the decision would damage the reputation of the church in Crawley.

The measure was passed by the General Synod’s houses of Bishops and Clergy but rejected by the House of Laity on November 21. The majority of the church was in favour of the move but it was not an unanimous vote as there were five votes against ordaining women bishops.

Doris, who retired from St Alban’s Church in Gossops Green in October, said the decision had a personal meaning for her after her own battle to become a priest. When she was priested in 1994 in East Grinstead, a service was being held in a nearby church protesting the ordination of women. She said: “It is a very sad day for the Church of England and for all people. They have been pushing this for a long time. There is no reason at all why a priest cannot become a bishop regardless of sex. It is sad for the women in the church who were recommended to be ordained and would have made wonderful bishops. It is also sad for the men who supported us. It could take ten years for women bishops to be ordained as it could be five years before a similar vote can be held. I knew I didn’t want to be a bishop. But there are some very capable woman priests. I also feel that I am too old. That is my worry, that the priests lined up to be ordained will be too old when this is voted on again. They are feeling it in their hands and it is being slipped away from them. I hoped to see it in my lifetime, but I am not sure I will.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said in a sermon on Sunday (November 25) that the ‘Church of England’s self-confidence and national reputation’ had been badly affected. He said: “We now have to face some very uncomfortable facts that will implicate us all in a review of our decision-making processes. As we reflect on our situation we might ask how we are to set about our mission and rebuilding trust and understanding.”