General Synod says ‘no’ to women bishops
By now everyone will have learned that the House of Laity of the General Synod failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass legislation enabling women to be ordained bishop (132 for / 74 against / no abstentions). Tuesday’s debate was supposed to be the culmination of a process of discernment during which forty-two of forty-four dioceses had demonstrated support for women bishops with three-quarters of members of diocesan synods voting in favour. The Church of England had expressed its mind – a state of affairs reflected in yesterday’s voting within both the House of Bishops (44 / 3 / 2) and the House of Clergy (148 / 45 / -).
Yet despite this clear mandate, 74 individuals decided to flout it, thereby emptying the House of Laity vote against legislation for women bishops of any moral authority whilst undermining the process of representation the synodical system is supposed to enshrine. This is a most disturbing development and one that, intentionally or otherwise, will be received by many as a vote against women’s priestly ministry, not least because many of the arguments against and concerns over women bishops articulated yesterday were rehearsed twenty years ago in the debate over women priests.
I hope the so-called ‘Group of Six’ (the Archbishops, the Prolocutors, the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity) can find some way of undoing this injustice. In the meantime, I will continue to celebrate all the ways in which women enrich the life of the church and look forward to their leadership as bishops. And to my female colleagues at St Mark’s as well as throughout the Church of England, I urge you not to despair or give up, but to stand firm in the truth of our common humanity in Christ and the gospel he entrusts equally to all who respond to his call.
Ian Wallis, Vicar.
Statement on the Conclusion of the Meeting of the Archbishop’s Council 28 November 2012
“The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England met on November 27-28th to consider a wide ranging agenda. A substantial amount of time was given over to the discussion of the recent vote by General Synod on Women in the Episcopate.
“As part of their reflections, many council members commented on the deep degree of sadness and shock that they had felt as a result of the vote and also of the need to affirm all women serving the church – both lay and ordained – in their ministries.
“In its discussions the Council decided that a process to admit women to the episcopate needed to be restarted at the next meeting of the General Synod in July 2013. There was agreement that the Church of England had to resolve this matter through its own processes as a matter of urgency. The Council therefore recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time, put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July.”
Statement from the House of Bishops on defeat of women bishops legislation, 11 December 2012
The House of Bishops of the Church of England met yesterday and today at Lambeth Palace and considered the implications of the General Synod’s recent rejection of legislation to enable women to become bishops. The House had the benefit of participation in its discussion of the Very Rev Viv Faull, the Venerable Christine Hardman, Dr Paula Gooder, and Mrs Margaret Swinson, who had all previously served on the Steering Committee or Revision Committee for the legislation.
The House expressed its ongoing gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, and its sadness that recent events should have left so many feeling undermined and undervalued. Effective response to this situation is a priority on which all are strongly agreed.
The House acknowledged the profound and widespread sense of anger, grief, and disappointment felt by so many in the Church of England and beyond, and agreed that the present situation was unsustainable for all, whatever their convictions. It expressed its continuing commitment to enabling women to be consecrated as bishops, and intends to have fresh proposals to put before the General Synod at its next meeting in July.
The House will be organising an event early in 2013 at which it will share with a larger number of lay and ordained women – in the context of prayer and reflection – questions about the culture of the House’s processes and discussions, and how women might more regularly contribute.
In order to avoid delay in preparing new legislative proposals, the House has set up a working group drawn from all three houses of Synod, the membership to be determined by the Archbishops and announced before Christmas.
This group will arrange facilitated discussions with a wide range of people of a variety of views in the week of February 4th, when General Synod was to have met.
The House will have an additional meeting in February immediately after these discussions, and expects to settle at its May meeting the elements of a new legislative package to come to Synod in July.
For any such proposals to command assent, the House believes that they will need (i) greater simplicity, (ii) a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference “that those who dissent from as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans”, (iii) a broadly-based measure of agreement about the shape of the legislation in advance of the beginning of the actual legislative process. These concerns will be the focus of the working group in the months ahead.
The House endorsed the view of the Archbishops’ Council that the “Church of England now has to resolve this issue through its own processes as a matter of great urgency”.
WATCH response to House of Bishops press statement
Response to the House of Bishops Press Statement of 11th December, 2012
WATCH welcomes the House of Bishops’ expression of gratitude and appreciation for the ministry of ordained women in the Church of England, its acknowledgement of the anger, grief and disappointment so widely expressed during the past weeks and the commitment of all its members to making an effective response.
The House of Bishops’ willingness to consider questions regarding culture, processes and how women might more regularly contribute is also encouraging. We believe this will best be realised through the admission of women to the episcopate and will continue to work for the full inclusion of women at every level in the Church of England.
WATCH support the House of Bishops’ belief that a future legislative package would benefit from greater simplicity. A single clause measure is entirely consistent with that aim and would affirm that those who assent to the ordination of women to the episcopate are, in fact, loyal Anglicans from whom no ‘protection’ is needed.
WATCH remains clear that after ten years of searching for a compromise in law without success, a single clause measure is the best way forward now. Provision for those opposed can be made outside the Measure. This is the way that every other Province of the Anglican Communion with women bishops has proceeded.
We look forward with interest to the Archbishops’ announcement of the membership of the proposed working group and hope that it will be properly representative of the widespread support for women bishops clearly demonstrated at local level through Diocesan Synods.
We hope that future discussions will be guided by the principle that women are as central to the whole life of the church as men. It will be essential that such discussions uphold General Synod’s decision of 1975 there is ‘no fundamental objection to ordination of women to the priesthood’, and also that of 2006 which recognised that admitting women to the episcopate is ‘consonant with the faith of the church’.
Rachel Weir, WATCH CHAIR, commented
“There can be few issues that have undermined the Church’s credibility more than its recent rejection of the women bishops legislation. The entire country is watching as we try to find a way forward. Supporters of women bishops are prepared, if necessary, to wait for a new synod to get this right. It is time for a clear and unequivocal endorsement of women’s ordained ministry embodied in a single clause measure.”
Working group on new legislative proposals on women bishops announced – 19 December 2012
House of Bishops summary of decisions at it’s latest meeting published – 20 December 2012
House of Laity meeting – 18 January 2013
The Agenda and papers for the meeting of the House of Laity, in the Assembly Chamber, Church House, on 18 January 2013 have been published. The main item on the Agenda is the ‘vote of no confidence’ in Dr Philip Giddings as Chair of this House.