Thinking Anglicans

Preliminary comment on the Rochester report

The report does not contain any recommendations. It merely sets out all the possible options and lists the pros and cons of each, so that General Synod can decide what if anything to do.

The report will be discussed initially at the 14-18 February 2005 meeting of General Synod in London. No decisions will be made until the 08-12 July 2005 General Synod in York, at which a decision in principle whether to proceed or not will be made.

There will then be an election, and the new General Synod will first meet on 14-16 November 2005. This would be the earliest date at which legislation could be introduced. William Fittall, Secretary General of the General Synod and the Archbishops’ Council, said today that the minimum time to complete the legislative process would be four years, so that 2009 would be the earliest date at which any woman could be chosen as a bishop in the Church of England. The main reason given for the four year period was the need for the legislation, once approved by General Synod, to then be considered by each of the 44 diocesan synods. This part of the process was thought to require 18 months. A majority of the 44 (i.e. at least 23) diocesan synods must approve the legislation (they cannot amend it) by a simple majority of both Clergy and Laity. In the General Synod itself, the Final Approval stage requires a two-thirds majority in each of its three houses.

The main lobbying groups are at this stage arguing for the extreme options from those listed: those in favour of women bishops are pressing for single clause legislation. Those opposed are pressing for a third province approach. The problem about the single clause legislation is that Parliament might well not approve it without provisions for financial compensation for those conscientiously opposed. Concerning the third province approach, the Rochester report lists a large number of practical issues as well as theological difficulties. A detailed draft proposal by FiF for a third province is contained within the recently published book Consecrated Women?

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David Cresswell
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David Cresswell

If General Synod insists upon moving forward with the consecration of women to the episcopate, a third province can be the only way forward. All kinds of difficulties lie ahead, one can see ordinations and confirmations being called into question, and further schism damaging our church. One can only pray that common sense will prevail,