Thinking Anglicans

Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps

Updated Wednesday night

The Church of England has this morning issued this report from the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops: Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps.

Women in the Episcopate: The Next Steps
05 September 2012

The Standing Committee of the House of Bishops has set out the next steps in the Church of England’s debate on Women Bishops.

Following the decision of the General Synod on 9th July 2012 to refer the matter back to the House of Bishops for further consideration, the Standing Committee has met to consider the options available when the House meets in Oxford on September 12.

At its meeting yesterday the committee considered all the submissions received in response to a request for members of General Synod and interested groups to suggest possible ways forward, in addition to taking account of comments from the Steering Committee responsible for taking the draft legislation through the General Synod.

In total 120 submissions were received: 17 were from bishops, 33 from clergy members of the General Synod, 48 from lay members of the Synod, 7 from groups and 15 from other individuals who do not sit as members of Synod.

Of the seven options presented in the paper the two which received the greatest level of support are options 1 and 2: retaining Clause 5(1)(c) in its present form or deleting it without replacement. 35 correspondents expressed a preference for retaining the provision (option 1) and 41 for deleting it (option 2). Option 3 attracted relatively little support whilst options 4 to 7 attracted some support and also some criticisms. In addition a few new options were suggested by respondents.

In terms of groups representing particular opinions on this issue the submissions from WATCH – advocating women in the episcopate – firmly supported Option 2 whilst Reform and the Catholic Group – opposing women in the episcopate – firmly favoured option 1.

Having considered and discussed the submissions received, the Standing Committee resolved to invite the House of Bishops to consider the Committee’s assessment of the seven options in GS Misc 1033 and of the additional suggestions received during the consultation process. Members of the House have the right to table amendments before 5pm on Tuesday September 11th.

The amendments will be voted upon at the meeting of the House of Bishops by simple majority. If no amendment were passed the draft Measure would return to the General Synod unchanged (option 1 from GS Misc 1033).

The amendments that the Standing Committee has suggested for discussion in the light of the consultation are as follows:

  • (Option 2 from GS Misc 1033) Delete clause 5(1)(c)
  • (Option 4 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection, after consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests to exercise ministry in the parishes of those councils,”
  • (New option suggested by a Synod member) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3,”.
  • (Option 5 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection, following consultation with parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3, of male bishops and male priests, the exercise of ministry by whom appears to the persons making the selection to be appropriate for the parishes concerned,”.
  • (Option 6 from GS Misc 1033) Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c):
    “the selection of male bishops and male priests the exercise of ministry by whom respects the position, in relation to the celebration of the sacraments and other divine service and the provision of pastoral care, of the parochial church councils who issue Letters of Request under section 3,”.

The General Synod will vote on the draft Measure at its meeting in London on 19-21 November.

We linked to GS Misc 1033 here.

Update The press release includes this summary of GS Misc 1033.

The discussion document GS Misc 1033 was issued on 25 July and set out 7 options making clear that these were not an exhaustive list:

Option 1- Retention of Clause 5(1)(c) in its current form.

Option 2 – Deletion of Clause 5(1)(c).

Option 3 – Replacement of “consistent with” by “respect” or “take account of”.

Option 4 – Focus on broad subject area and perhaps process.

Option 5 – Focus on suitability/appropriateness.

Option 6 – Revised formulation of what parishes need (inserting references to the position of PCCs in relation to the celebration of the sacraments etc).

Option 7 – Option 6 plus some process.

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Original ObserverJohn RochHilary CottonRosalind RTobias Haller Recent comment authors
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Tobias Haller
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Tobias Haller

Am I the only one who finds “the exercise of ministry by whom” to be a very odd way of speaking? What’s wrong with “whose exercise of ministry”?

Though I lean towards Option 2 in any case as the clearest choice of all.

Rosalind R
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Rosalind R

AS I read these options and think of one of the main criticisms of amendment 5.1.c (that it risked bishops being appointed to suit a parish, and with this the potential risk of creating “mini-dioceses” within a diocese with unclear lines of authority between the diocesan and the bishops appointed under these schemes), I hope there are enough bishops who are thinking in a “joined-up” way. Cf these quotes from the recent report on Safeguarding in Chichester Diocese (pp 7 -10): “It is fundamental to safeguarding in any organisation that the leadership team works as a united body focusing entirely… Read more »

Original Observer
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Original Observer

As retention of Clause 5(1)(c) in its current form is the default position, it seems to me unlikely that a majority would form around any one other option as each member of the House would presumably have one vote that could be used only once. A more sophisticated voting system (of the kind beloved by certain politicians) could well produce a more nuanced outcome however.

So it may well be time to see whether the supporters or women bishops are indeed prepared to vote down their own legislation.

Hilary Cotton
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Hilary Cotton

The order in which these options are voted on will be crucial. If the process that was used previously, in May, and before that in the Revision Committee, is used, then there is a clear possibility that the decision as to which option is presented to General Synod will be taken without comparing properly the different options and their possible consequences. Remember what happened in the Revision Committee, when they voted in favour of transfer and then found there was no basis for agreement on what should actually be transferred? So we could end up with legislation that demands a… Read more »

John Roch
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John Roch

They could use the STV method used for GS elections – which they are, presumably, familiar with.

Original Observer
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Original Observer

Hilary Cotton’s suggestion implies that the option to delete 5.1(c) should be thought more important than any other option as each voter would have two votes: one to use on any of the options to rewrite 5.1(c), and a second one to decide whether to delete 5.1(c). The question is whether to amend again the already amended legislation; but the starting point is the legislation in the form it was referred back to the House by the Synod (i.e. containing 5.1(c)). Option 2 should logically be taken first. If it is established that the House will not delete the clause,… Read more »