Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops: WATCH calls for single clause measure

WATCH (Women and the Church) issued this press statement tonight.

WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS STATEMENT
Monday 2nd December, 2012 – For immediate release

WATCH urges the House of Bishops to bring back a Single Clause Measure

Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee. General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church. (Full details of the progress of the debate can be found here.)

The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour. It was not enough for those opposed. After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom by minority factions who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith. These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH.

Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution. There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome. That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church

It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation – a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops. Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.

It is also time for honesty in this debate. Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible. We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before. They will simply prolong the process.

With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,

too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests… It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.

For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.

In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012

It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said

We have spent enough time in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.

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Dan Barnes-Davies
Guest

Very courageous.

JCF
Guest
JCF

Occam’s Razor: simple, clean, best. If you can’t make everybody happy, why not at least choose the obvious way?

Father David
Guest
Father David

Is there any truth in the rumour I have heard that the Church of England is to be renamed – “The Church of the Headless Chicken”? The reason the amended Measure didn’t receive a sufficient majority in the House of Laity was that even some who are in favour of the innovation voted against because they deemed that insufficient provision was being given to those of a traditionalist outlook. So, given the make up of the present General Synod, what chance has a single clause measure of succeeding whereby NO provision is made for those who cannot accept the innovation?… Read more »

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

This is is certainly consistent with what we found in TEC. Efforts were made to accommodate the minority view, but they were similarly intractable. I am especially gratified by the remark “This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.” Yes. Thank you. Finally CoE is taking note of other provinces. It has been very odd in TEC to be punished and scolded by Rowan while his own church is backwards by about 40 years. CoE will have no credibility on social justice, diversity, and… Read more »

Sister Mary
Guest
Sister Mary

The child to be born to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge will be third in line to the throne, whether male or female. Why? Because the law will acknowledge the equality of the sexes in this constitutional matter after millennia of male-first succession. It is high time the C of E moved on this measure; it’s not as though there were no Anglican women bishops. We proclaim that we decide “on principle” but nearly everyone acts from the gut. Time was when C of E clergy who couldn’t accept the claims/teaching left in conscience for an unsupported future. At… Read more »

joseph Golightly
Guest
joseph Golightly

No unity at any cost!

Father Ron Smith
Guest

By voting for a Single Clause Measure, the Church of England would be aligning herself with those other provinces of the Anglican Communion that have approved of, and rejoice in, women as co-sharers – with men – of the Gospel message; who are also called by God into the Sacramental ministry and Leadership of the local Church.

Only in this way can the Church avoid the charge of institutional sexism – something that Jesus, Lord of the Church, would hardly have countenanced

Original Observer
Guest
Original Observer

Given the Measure failed in November for want of adequate provision just how does WATCH expect a single clause Measure to fair any better? But it does need to be put to the vote if only to demonstrate that simple fact.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Posters here were outraged about how unrepresentative the synod vote was (or at least perceived to be). So how on earth is forcing through a measure that never even graces a diocesan synod any more representative?

Simon Taylor
Guest
Simon Taylor

Because, Original Observer, the proposed new Measure would come back to this Synod for preliminary stages only, and in those stages would only need simple majorities to proceed. A newly elected Synod post-2015 will have a different make-up, and may well provide the necessary two-thirds majority, which is required for final approval only.

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

Tom,

I’m not clear where in the WATCH press release we suggested that any future measures should not be discussed at diocesan level.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I almost wish we could approach this like electing bishops in the United States. Place before Synod all possible choices, from single clause to a separate province, and have people continue to vote on them until one option garners the most votes. At present, we seem to be risking a perpetual debate on women bishops, especially if the next measure goes down in defeat.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Simon Taylor said, ” A newly elected Synod post-2015 will have a different make-up, and may well provide the necessary two-thirds majority, which is required for final approval only.”

That is one strategy; I don’t know enough about the referral to the dioceses to know whether the process can be drawn out for 3 years.

Would this strategy make women bishops an issue at the next parliamentary election, scheduled for 7 May 2015?

Counterlight
Guest

It appears to me that the C of E’s decision making process is so archaic, so unwieldy, and so unresponsive that I doubt a resolution stating that roses are red and violets are blue could find enough votes to pass the requirement for two thirds majorities in each of the three houses, even after a century of debate.

Nigel Aston
Guest
Nigel Aston

I don’t see how the WATCH statement is going to help Bishop Justin attempt to reach a negotiated, consensual agreement among all parties in time for the July 2013 General Synod. A period of silence and prayer on this issue into the New Year would surely be more constructive.

Jonno
Guest
Jonno

I see little point in dwelling on what they do, or not do, in TEC. The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it’s not a good example to follow.

Tim Budd
Guest
Tim Budd

The single clause measure that WATCH are asking for is the only way of regaining some credibility in the eyes of the majority of people in the pews and in the country. A straw poll in my own church last Sunday suggested that 90% of the congregation wanted no provision whatsoever for traditionalists. Unfortunately getting such a measure through the current synod is clearly not possible, so we either have to compromise or wait, probably for another decade.

Counterlight
Guest

“The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it’s not a good example to follow.”

And of course it’s standing room only at every C of E church, and England is renowned throughout the world for its piety. A Christian nation indeed!

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Counterlight suggests that the CofE’s “decision making process is … archaic, unwieldy, and unresponsive”. Conversely, one might suggest that the process is designed to ensure that a major change is only made when there is sufficient consensus. This is an entirely reasonable objective, and it can be seen in for example the Constitution of the USA which requires super-majorities in Congress to override a presidential veto; or requires a super-majority of the Senate to make Treaties; and constitutional amendments require super-majorities in Congress or of the states both when proposed and when ratified. And the US Constitution is a typical… Read more »

Original Observer
Guest
Original Observer

Simon Taylor – I appreciate what you say about the way in which the single clause measure would progress initially. I had thought that the intention was to bring a new Measure and legislate with the current synod, if possible.

Relying a new synod to pass a single clause measure is of course a pure gamble. Remember, the evangelicals are the growing part of the church and they have the organisation etc to get their people elected. A future blocking minority could well be larger than at present.

primroseleague
Guest
primroseleague

Tim Budd “A straw poll in my own church last Sunday suggested that 90% of the congregation wanted no provision whatsoever for traditionalists” Genuinely not being flippant – seriously? Did the vicar arrange a ballot? A show of hands? Or are you just guessing based on who you spoke to? Was it to strengthen the argument with the diocesan synod? In my own church it was very much business as usual, with a chat about the forthcoming Christmas fete, and the carol concert, no mention of the vote whatsoever – and we’ve got a woman vicar. In any case, I’m… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

Our system for deciding crucial and fundamental issues is indeed complex, but it is responsive to public opinion.

I would say that the C of E has a much bigger consensus out there in the parishes for women to be considered for the episcopacy than the US Congress and state legislatures did in 1919 when they granted women the right to vote.

John Roch
Guest
John Roch

following Simon Kershaw –

I may be absolutely wrong, but at the back of my head I have the idea that the two-thirds majority requirement is there as a guarantee to Parliament.

Was it there in the Church Assembly rules?

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

Nigel Aston – it is always good to begin with where people are, so honesty can be helpful – in fact it ought to be essential for Christians. I am meeting and hearing from large numbers of people who felt pushed into an uncomfortable position to support the measure in front of General Synod even though it was not what they really wanted. WATCH documented the pushing before the vote. These people say to me “we won’t be pushed down that dead end again”. That is a fact on the ground, as they say, and no progress will be made… Read more »

John
Guest
John

One needs to say loud and clear that a single-clause measure, after the defeat of the last measure, would just be immoral. I am continually amazed by the extraordinarily low moral standards of so many clergy and bishops. I write as a supporter of women priests and women bishops.

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

WATCH’S press release is reminiscent of the kind of ideology that promotes ethnic cleansing. Talk about discrimination against minorities! How ironic.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

“I see little point in dwelling on what they do, or not do, in TEC. The fact that it continues to lose members at an eye-watering rate makes me think it’s not a good example to follow.” This is not true. Over the last 2 years, 33 of our 100 dioceses have posted GROWTH. Yes, the schisms plus the general decline of mainline Protestant churches (shared by both our countries) had an impact. But the schism bottomed out and now we are actually GROWING. I am in a parish and diocese that is GROWING. We are characterized by amazing female… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

“The reason the amended Measure didn’t receive a sufficient majority in the House of Laity was that even some who are in favour of the innovation voted against because they deemed that insufficient provision was being given to those of a traditionalist outlook.”

Stipulating “facts” which are questions at issue? I would say it’s AT LEAST as evident that the lay delegates ignored the majority-vote of their respective diocesan synods.

Stephen
Guest
Stephen

From the WATCH Statement : “For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.” “In a newly elected Synod.” (The last 5 words in the above quote.) It’s clear they intend to stack the House in their favor in order to gain the results they want. A rump House of the Laity to do… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I think words like “immoral” and comparisons like “ethnic cleansing” need to be justified rather than asserted without justification. Without justification, what do they add to the argument, or to any possibility of conversation? – They are simply gratuitously offensive.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Precisely so – JCF – and I’m sure that you didn’t get where you are today by ignoring the “facts”! Members of the General Synod’s House of Laity are not there to echo the views of their respective dioceses but must vote according to their own God given free will. I’m sure that you would not wish them to vote against the dictates of conscience – now would you?

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

In response to Stephen’s contribution, for which I have much sympathy, there are some of us, nevertheless, who will not be hounded out of the Church by the bullying tactics of organisations like WATCH. We are here and here to stay, and may well ultimately prove to be a thorn in the flesh of those who would seek to oust us. My sincere prayer, however, is that we do not come to that and the more reasonable minded synod members will continue to seek after the kind of provision that has so far eluded them.

Pam Smith
Guest

Stephen: “It’s clear they intend to stack the House in their favor in order to gain the results they want” I don’t think people should ‘stack the House’, which is why I find the activities of the opponents to women’s ordination at the last elections for the House of Laity so distasteful. In my Diocese, the only General Synod member who voted against the measure had not mentioned at election time that he was against the ordination of women and that holding up the legislation for women to be bishops was one of his main reasons for wanting to be… Read more »

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

I will now add “bullying” to the list of assertions which need to be justified.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Benedict WATCH members in GS have voted for a draft Measure that would have given women bishops a different status from male bishops and that would have allowed parishes to reject their service in perpetuity. This is bullying? This is hounding people out? Would those who rejected the Measure like to take some responsibility in making compromise work? And please, compromise means just that. Both sides have to give something. Where are you willing to compromise? Now that we have a clean piece of paper again, maybe it’s time for you to offer a compromise solution instead of complaining that… Read more »

Robert ian Williams
Guest
Robert ian Williams

If the Church of England was in as healthy a state as the Episcopal Church there wopuld be 9 million communicants every Sunday. Of Tec’s 2.3 million, 650,000 regularly attend.. compare the proportion with the Cof E and this is very good.

John
Guest
John

I think it’s immoral not to accept a result just because you don’t like it or to seek to change the rules after a particular result. That seems clear enough.

David Lamming
Guest
David Lamming

Fr David — I would agree with you that GS members are not ‘delegates’ of their respective dioceses (the term used by JCF in his post at 11.07 pm yesterday). However, while I would also agree that members of the General Synod’s House of Laity are not there simply “to echo the views of their respective dioceses”, when the subject-matter of the vote has been expressly referred to dioceses as ‘Article 8 business’ there is surely an obligation for GS members to have regard to the vote in their diocesan synod. Where the diocesan synod has voted by a large… Read more »

Lionel Deimel
Guest

As the song says, “You can’t always get what you want.” In a deliberative body in particular, it is sometimes impossible to give everyone what they want. In the case of the women bishops measure, one has to ask if the “benefits” to opponents—and they are mostly opponents to women clergy generally—aren’t greatly outweighed by the damage to the church—damage to its unity, to its administrative efficiency, and to its credibility among the population at large. WATCH has outlined a reasonable way—perhaps the only reasonable way—forward. The new General Synod will have a different composition. Advocates for women bishops will,… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Why all these complaints about “stacking the house”? The fact is that at the last Synod election, the opponents of women bishops out-hustled the advocates. The opponents’ conscious strategy was to elect a blocking minority. They succeeded–perhaps because, at the time, no one else cared. Like it or not, that’s how a democratic system works. If someone finds mobilizing and campaigning “distasteful,” then presumably voting is distasteful as well. Issue advocacy goes along with a system that is, or purports to be, democratic. If you have one, you get the other. And that’s the way it should be. Now it’s… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“I think it’s immoral not to accept a result just because you don’t like it or to seek to change the rules after a particular result. That seems clear enough.” This is utter nonsense. It’s the conservative approach stated as a universal rule of politics–nothing should change or be reformed, because what has gone before is 100% moral. On this view, the law should never change, votes should never be reconsidered, and we should go back to rotten boroughs, slavery, and women as property. Just because this vote was taken does not mean that its result is now sacrosanct, or… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I think your response is utter nonsense, Jeremy.

Apply what is happening now to the result of an election in any democratic country (where the popular vote may well be different from the actual result). Change, yes: not immediate refusal to accept a particular result. All this is deeply shabby.

Cynthia
Guest
Cynthia

I note that I’m reading much more on the morality of the vote, then the morality of discrimination. CoE is the established church. What moral authority would the CoE have on crucial issues of social justice if it institutionalizes discrimination? As the writer noted, no other Province has moved ahead with WB’s with caveats making them 2nd class. The language from the conservatives about being “shoved out” and “bullied” is rather over-the-top, considering the centuries of exclusion! All that language says to me is “I want to keep my boys club, my theology for it is totally lame, I just… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

Please let’s keep the conversation polite and not indulge in rudeness to each other.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

To suggest that something is “immoral” is to imply that it transgresses some moral rule or code – I am not sure what rule or code is said to be applicable here. No-one is saying “let’s have women as bishops in spite of what General Synod has said” – rather people are accepting the reality of that decision for the moment, and seeking to change the decision in the future using the mechanisms and rules available to them. That is not against the rules, it is playing by the rules. I should perhaps add, in case there are those who… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“All this is deeply shabby” And perfectly predictable. I am truly astonished by how many people are surprised by the reality of this. The CoE has decided with an overwhelming majority that it wants Women Bishops. Although the GS debate seemed to focus on whether women CAN be bishops, this was not actually what the vote was about. That question has already been settled several years ago. 42 out of 44 Dioceses had already voted for a proposal that was even less generous to traditionalists than the draft Measure that was eventually voted on after 2 lots of HoB amendments.… Read more »

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

Mark Bennet, what else would you call the vociferous appeal of your organisation for a one clause measure when you know for a fact it would lead to the unchurching of a significant minority of members of the C of E. WATCH is determined to press on with a measure offering no provision, and even when the fragments of provision were on the table, your members were divided as to whether to support it. The Churchof England has always been able to embrace diversity, but WATCH, GRAS etc want only those who comply with their views. That is akin to… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed.” — WATCH

Absolutely spot on!
Not when some are even opposed to male bishops who support female bishops, and want to exclude such insufficiently-orthodox bishops from their midst.
Not when some want to abolish the simple courtesy — granted to male bishops, as a matter of course — of asking a female bishop permission for having a visiting male bishop come in and provide necessary episcopal functions.

Well put, WATCH.

magistra
Guest

Benedict, one of those here opposing WBs says: “We are here and here to stay, and may well ultimately prove to be a thorn in the flesh of those who would seek to oust us.” I would like to ask him and other opponents of WBs: what is your positive view of how you can work alongside those you disagree with in the next 20 years? What we tend to hear from FiF, etc is how they must be given provisions that will isolate them from the rest of the church (e.g. their own dioceses, their own bishops). The impression… Read more »

John
Guest
John

Erika, I think you are arguing wrongly. It is wrong, when you don’t get the result you want, even when that result is just, immediately to try to change the result or to change the system that led to the result. WRONG. I’m afraid I think this is completely elementary. People who don’t think this completely elementary are adopting crude ‘end-justifies-the means’ principles. That does not mean that there is not a profound problem here for the C of E which must be resolved. But the starting-point for that resolution MUST NOT BE disregard of the recent vote. It must… Read more »