Thursday, 7 February 2013

House of Bishops issues another statement on women bishops

Statement on the conclusion of the meeting of the House of Bishops

07 February 2013

The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today expressed its encouragement and support for new robust processes and steps in bringing forward to General Synod the necessary legislation to consecrate women to the episcopate.

At a special meeting at Lambeth Palace today, the House reviewed the progress to develop proposals to enable women to become bishops at the earliest possible date. The meeting also considered changes to future meetings so as to ensure that eight senior women clergy will be participants in all meetings of the House and its standing committee.

The House was briefed on the two meetings held in January by the working group under the chairmanship of the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. All 10 of the members of the working group attended the House of Bishops meeting. The House also received an account of the intensive, facilitated conversations held by the group with 15 others from a wide range of viewpoints on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The House was encouraged to hear of the constructive manner in which everyone had joined together in the search for a way forward. It agreed that the working group should shortly issue a consultation document that would give an outline of the discussions of the past weeks, set out some emerging ideas and provide General Synod members with an opportunity to have an input into that conversation prior to the working group meeting again on 4 March.

The House affirmed the nature of the facilitation process and encouraged opportunities which may be available to extend this process further at a diocesan and regional level. There was also support for the facilitation process to continue in parallel with the fresh proposals that will be brought to General Synod in July.

Following the discussion with the working group, the House went on to consider issues arising from its current all male membership. It decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The intention is that eight members would be elected regionally from within bishops’ senior staff teams (that include deans, archdeacons and others). The necessary change to the House’s Standing Orders will be made in May.

In addition, the House agreed to a special meeting on 19 September when the College of Bishops and a group of senior female clergy will meet to take forward the range of cultural and practical issues about gender and ministry in the Church of England arising from the ‘Transformations’ initiative that was launched at Lambeth in September 2011.

Notes

The facilitation process referred to was set out in PR160.12 on 11 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/statement-from-the-house-of-bishops-on-defeat-of-women-bishops-legislation.aspx

Membership of the working group was set out in PR169.12 on 19 December 2012 http://www.churchofengland.org/media-centre/news/2012/12/working-group-on-new-legislative-proposals-on-women-bishops-announced.aspx

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 5:10pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod
Comments

So far, so good!

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 5:40pm GMT

This appears, at long last, to be positive, clear, and straight-forward progress in attempting to resolve the situation which should have been settled many years ago. It is a nonsense that women can be priests but not bishops in the CofE (although they are elsewhere) and especially since the most senior member of the CofE is a woman with the status of Supreme Governor ! If the 'Boss' can be a woman, why not in all the lower ranks also ?

Posted by: Alan Birt on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 6:28pm GMT

This is a rational, creative and sensible way-forward. I feel very encouraged.

I can now begin to imagine human scale, rational, and 'simple' ways forward in addressing other issues; and other visions.

Kudos !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 10:22pm GMT

"Following the discussion with the working group, the House went on to consider issues arising from its current all male membership. It decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The intention is that eight members would be elected regionally from within bishops' senior staff teams (that include deans, archdeacons and others). The necessary change to the House's Standing Orders will be made in May.' - Bishops' Statement -

This is really the nub of the statement - that Leading Women will be part of the House of Bishops' ongoing discussion of the process. This can only lead to a more balanced outcome of whatever legislation is eventually put into place.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 11:20pm GMT

Good to hear something positive about the process and the emphasis on facilitated conversations. Encouraged by the House of Bishops offer of hospitality to senior women. Think their very presence may have a radical impact.

Posted by: Lindsay Southern on Thursday, 7 February 2013 at 11:22pm GMT

I apologise for my own mis-reading of this article. In my previous post I have assumed that women would be a part of the discussion BEFORE the House of Bishops decides on the legislation it will put to the voter in General Synod.

Instead, the suggestion is that once the legislation to ordain Women Bishop is approved; THEN the number of women allowed to take part in discussion in the House of Bishops will be up to Eight Women, elected by regions.

This still leaves a distinct LACK of Women being allowed into discussions by the House of Bishops BEFORE the legislation wording is decided upon. This situation is not so forward-looking as one might have hoped.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 8 February 2013 at 9:46am GMT

'Participant observer' status for senior women suggests a few things.

First, the bishops have heard the frustration of government and parliament, and want to mollify Westminster before the bishops' seats in the Lords are threatened. Second reading of several women-bishops bills was scheduled for March, so this announcement gets ahead of that reading.

Second, the bishops have heard the anger, nay fury, of women clergy and the laity who support women's ordination, and wish to mollify them as well.

Third, the House of Bishops is essentially telling the House of Laity that there is a limit to what the Laity can do to keep the Bishops a discriminatory house.

Fourth, the House of Bishops is disassociating itself from the false doctrine of male headship. Judging from the November CofE debate, this is a salutary and necessary teaching move.

Fifth, does anyone think that the former Archbishop of Canterbury would have done this?

Having said all that, "participant observers" are not bishops and will be second-class attenders.... Perhaps their presence, and obvious second-class status, will cause some bishops to show more leadership.

Meanwhile, we await the more recommendations as to how the CofE shall move forward--and soon--to ordain women bishops.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 8 February 2013 at 12:33pm GMT

May I correct Fr. Ron. There is no suggestion that the 8 elected women will have to wait for legislation to pass. The House will make the necessary changes to its standing orders in May and from the moment in the meeting that is done I would expect the women to be participant observers.

Posted by: David Walker on Friday, 8 February 2013 at 6:53pm GMT

This is the turning of the tide

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 2:01pm GMT

This is great, the House of Bishops is showing real leadership at this critical time.

However...'eight [female] members would be elected regionally from within bishops’ senior staff teams'. Who is doing the electing? Male bishops (with the danger they elect women who are not going to be too troublesome)? Female clergy? The House of Clergy? General Synod (and with what majority required?)?

My past experience is that when a woman or women are looked for, often they want a man wearing a skirt. That is, they don't really want someone who is going to put the women's point of view clearly, and carry forward the women's agenda.

I really hope it's going to be different now.

Janet

Posted by: Janet on Saturday, 9 February 2013 at 9:19pm GMT

At this rate we'll be electing our bishops too before too long ! Yes, seems like a real turning point.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Sunday, 10 February 2013 at 2:06pm GMT
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