Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Parliamentary debate on Women in the Church of England

See previous report of a House of Commons “adjournment debate” on women bishops.

The Hansard record of yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate is now online starting here.

For the video recording, see here.

Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, said this:

…I very much hope that, when the House of Bishops considers the resolution from the February Synod, it gives it careful consideration. However, given that a majority of the members of the February Synod voted in favour of women becoming bishops—in other words, they supported those resolutions that enable that prospect to move forward—I would be extremely surprised if the House of Bishops did anything other than to enable the Measure to move forward, and I have every confidence in the good sense and good judgment of the House of Bishops.

When we come to the Church of England’s General Synod in July, I very much hope that even those who have been opposed to women becoming bishops will recognise the overwhelming support within the Church of England for the Measure to go forward. In fact, if 42 out of 44 dioceses have voted in favour of women becoming bishops, it would look very perverse—indeed, it would look ridiculous—if the General Synod in July was to use its convoluted voting mechanisms not to allow that Measure to move forward. Between now and July, I hope that everyone will search their soul and I also hope that, if people are opposed to the Measure, they will recognise that there comes a point when it is necessary to acknowledge that, in the interests and well-being of the Church of England, the Measure must make progress.

We have always wished to continue to be a broad Church, maintaining space for all those who wish to remain within the Church of England. However, there must be a recognition that this issue has been deliberated for a long time and that it has been considered carefully, with everyone in the Church of England having had the opportunity to make a thoughtful and deliberative contribution to the debate, and that—as demonstrated by the votes in the dioceses during the last year—the views of the members of the Church of England are very clear.

I hope, therefore, that by the end of this year Parliament will have passed a Measure that will enable women to become bishops. Of course, although that parliamentary business would be dealt with in Government time, it would not be capable of being whipped business. Consequently, I will look to all those who have urged and exhorted me on this issue during Church Commissioners questions and elsewhere to be in the main Chamber to support the Measure when it comes to the Floor of the House. Wherever that support comes from—whether from atheists or resolved reactionaries—it is very important that the House of Commons demonstrates its support for women bishops. In due course, I hope that I and others here will be able to be at Westminster abbey or St Paul’s cathedral when the archbishops consecrate the first woman bishop…

And earlier he had said this:

May I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) that I hope that the General Synod will agree to adopt this Measure in July? In anticipation of that, I have met Lord Lloyd, the Chair of the Ecclesiastical Committee, which is made up of a number of Members of this House and a number of Members of the House of Lords, to discuss the Committee meeting in October to consider and approve the Measure.

Leaving nothing to chance, I have already had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House of Commons. Using the precedent of what happened in respect of the Measures for ordaining women as deacons and priests, it is deemed to be appropriate to consider this Measure on the Floor of the House, rather than upstairs in Committee. The understanding that I have reached with the Leader of the House is that we will set aside half a day—we hope, some time in November—to approve the Measure in this House. It has to be approved separately in the House of Lords, and I hope that it will do similarly. If the Measure is approved by General Synod in July, it is my ambition to do everything possible to have it pass all its legislative stages before the end of this year. We would therefore hope to see the first women bishops appointed as early as 2014. I agree with the comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Worthing West and for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) that that would be significant in terms of the timetable relating to reform of the House of Lords.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 8:37am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England

This was an excellent, in-depth and thoughtful debate with cross-party support. Interesting that apart from Diana Johnson MP who introduced it the others who contributed were all men. Worth reading.

Posted by: sally Barnes on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 9:42am GMT

How sad that with the state the country is in, parliament has to spend time discussing the internal politics of a Church.

However I hope parliament will realise that the Covenant if adopted by Synod, is a usurpation of parliament's powers over the self same Church.

Posted by: Robert ian williams on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 4:46pm GMT

To me, the greatest act of generosity and Christ's love would be for a woman to be elected the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 at 7:09pm GMT

What a jolly good presentation by the female proposer. This just goes to show that women can be just as objective and lucid as the male of the species - when allowed a voice in the community.

I guess the same needs to be encouraged in the leadership of the Church. Jesus honoured women - in a society where this was definitely not encouraged. Perhaps more encouragement is needed from the male hierarchy of the Church - to give women the full exercise of their leadership as Bishops. "Male and female created (God) them!"

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 1 March 2012 at 4:15am GMT

I'm sorry. I get the historical context of the Church of England, etc, etc, etc, probably better than most Brits do.

But as a Canadian Anglican, I would find it immoral and offensive that matters concerning the governance of my church would be politically debated by the state.

It's time to free the Anglican Church in England from the state.

(Don't get me wrong; I personally happen to think it's right that given the situation, Parliament is doing its best to give the hint to the CofE that they might want to welcome in the 20th century -- never mind the 21st -- sometime soon. But it's just BIZARRE as an Anglican outside England to see a government debating your church matters, period. Separation of Church and State, as Charles has hinted at, would solve the matter.)

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 2 March 2012 at 2:43am GMT

Interesting thought, Randall. I'm afraid though, that without the intervention of the government on human rights matters in England, the Church might never get down to the business of looking at them.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 2 March 2012 at 9:58am GMT
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