Pretty big word, this. What is conscience? To some it is simply a feeling that can be manipulated, or claimed as a weakness with which to manipulate others, lest they "hurt one's feelings." This view seems to fit well with the "Modern" view that there is really no truth or knowledge beyond mere opinions. These bishops, though, as sworn servants of Christ, should be expected to think Christian-ly and follow a Christian meaning of that word.
In the New Testament we find serious warnings to respect the consciences of other Christians. Paul writes, "do not for the sake of your flesh destroy a person for whom Christ died." He is there is talking there about respecting the consciences of others. Not that violating another's Christian conscience is an insult or a matter of hurt feelings, but a mortal threat. The word here is not "insult" or, as some might suggest, "challenge," but "destroy." How is this? How is this?
In Hebrews we read about Christians' consciences being cleansed of sin by the work of Christ's Spirit in our lives, and of a resulting confidence before God. We read in Timothy about how some people will "depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron." Each group is free from shame and guilt, but that is exactly where the resemblance ends. One is free from sin to know God, the others, well, just the opposite. For a Christian to cast away that confidence that comes from a cleansed conscience before God is the same as to defect from the Faith, and from Christ. For anyone, especially a leader in the Church of Christ, to reduce the question of "conscience" to a matter of personalities, is to declare themselves to be an enemy of the Gospel. Case closed.
Now who would want to be that foolhardy? As long as one has a conscience, there is hope. Let's be praying for the consciences of the bishops in England this week!