Friday, 24 May 2013

New proposals to enable women to become bishops

The Church of England has published this press release: New legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops published. The full text is copied below.

The proposals are contained in this document (PDF): Women In the Episcopate - New Legislative Proposals (GS 1886).
The report of the Working Group established by the House of Bishops is at the Annex of the document.

New legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops published

24 May 2013

The Church of England has published, today, new legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops which will be debated by the General Synod in July.

This will be the first occasion that Synod members have met since November 2012, when the previous legislation narrowly failed to secure the requisite majority in all three Houses, despite a 73% majority overall.

The proposals from the House of Bishops accompany the publication of a report of a Working Group which it had established in December. The Working Group’s report sets out four possible options for the shape of the new legislation. Of these the House of Bishops has recommended “the simplest possible legislation” (option one) which reads:

“A measure and amending canon that made it lawful for women to become bishops; and

“The repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure, plus the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.”

In addition, option one involves arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests being set out either in a declaration from the House of Bishops or in a new Act of Synod.

The short report from the Archbishops on behalf of the House sets out the text of a motion which invites the Synod to reaffirm its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency, require the legislative process to begin in November so that it can be concluded in 2015 and specify that the legislation should be in the simplest possible form.

The Business Committee of the General Synod met earlier this week and has scheduled the debate for the morning of Monday, 8 July in York. In addition, Synod members will spend a substantial amount of time in York on the Saturday in facilitated conversations, in which the various options can be explored further.

The Chair of the Working Group, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said on behalf of the Group:

“The mandate given to the Working Group in December reflected the House of Bishops’ view that new proposals would need both greater simplicity and a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that ‘those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans’.

“This mandate did not simply reflect the House of Bishops’ assessment of what was achievable, it also reflected its view of what was desirable - namely that the Church of England should retain its defining characteristic of being a broad Church, capable of accommodating a wide range of theological conviction.”

Bishop Nigel continued:

“Given this range of views it is essential to be clear on whether the Church of England is still willing to leave space for those who dissent from its decision. We have approached our task on the basis that the Church of England is so willing.

“To expect unanimity on where the limits of diversity should be drawn may be unrealistic, given the variety of strongly held views which exist and are maintained with integrity. Nevertheless it is necessary to see whether there might be an approach which could command a sufficiently wide measure of assent to enable progress to be made.

“We are perhaps at a moment when the only way forward is one which makes it difficult for anyone to claim outright victory.”

Concluding his statement, Bishop Nigel said:

“The Synod, guided by the recommendation that the House of Bishops has now made, needs in July to come to a clear decision about the proposals and options laid before it and give a mandate for the introduction of a draft measure and amending canon in November.

“That decision-making process will be greatly assisted by all Synod members having first the opportunity in York for facilitated listening and engagement of the kind that the group has found so helpful in producing this report. To that end, we are grateful to the Business Committee for making space for this to take place on the Saturday of our July meeting.”

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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

One can see from this report that Bishop Nigel is still hoping for discriminatory legislation that will allow dissenters to ignore the ministry of women - as bishops or clergy in the Church of England.

One wonders what sort of Church Order this will continue to perpetuate in the Church of England, and what sort of 'catholicity', in terms of episcopal collegiality, will become entrenched within the ethos of the Mother Church of world-wide Anglicanism.

One had thought that any Anglican who could not see their way clear to accepting the ministry of women - whether as clergy or bishops - could have taken advantage of moving to another part of the Church that agrees with their understanding of Holy Orders. The Roman Catholic Church has already provided dissident Anglicans with a 'safety mechanism' for their delicate consciences on this matter, in the raising up of their 'Ordinariate'.

We all might agree with the need to provide a breadth of theology in the Anglican Church, but does that need to accommodate legislated discrimination against ministerial vocations among 50% of the members on account of their gender difference?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 12:52am BST

Could someone explain what it means to be a "loyal Anglican?" Is it some special terminology with a particular meaning? Loyal to what? Or to whom? Why is it so important to call people who wish to continue the traditional discrimination against women "loyal Anglicans?"

We are all part of the body of Christ. Is that membership not enough?

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 4:12am BST

Just read it - all 25 pages.

It does seem to set out the issues rather well.

Fingers crossed.


"Loyal Anglican"? You could drop the "loyal" and the meaning would be the same: both views are properly described as "Anglican".

Posted by: Labarum on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 11:00am BST

Amazing! If the bishops bring proposals to synod as outlined in their statement the result will be:

The proposals are accepted and form the basis of legislation (because a simple majority of synod will surely back them and there will not be majorities to pass amendments). This process will continue until 2015 when the legislation will come for a final vote. But, it is unlikely the legislation would gain the required majorities in a final vote in the present synod. The provision for opponents is significantly less secure than in the legislation that fell in 2012 because it did not guarantee enough. Therefore there will be attempts to try everything possible to ensure that, having pushed the legislation along on a simple majority, a final vote is not taken until November 2015 when there will be a newly elected synod. My own guess is that it will pass in that new synod but it is a high risk strategy? The legislation could fall at the very beginning of a new synod!

In any case, opponents may be wise to see this as a cynical ploy by the bishops who are gathering arround the option offering no statutory provision. It really does show contempt for traditionalists. Of course it might be argued that traditionalists have shown contempt for women? I wouldn't want to make value judgements but trads will soon be in the position where the Pope has called their bluff from 1 direction and the CofE from another. If they acccept and work what is now on offer, they will have no credibility in anyone's eyes, including, I suspect, their own.

Posted by: Rose on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 12:39pm BST

As one of those "traditionalists" who is also a member of Synod, can i offer a few points? Firstly, too much of this whole business has fallen short of how we should treat each other. I will not believe this is cynical in voting after the next election, because - what a way to live a life. it may be cynical, but I can't let that colour my outlook.
Secondly, the next elections may not turn out as any of us think. But what ever comes has to be for all anglicans and then it has to be put to bed, and left - not fiddled with in five years time.
Thirdly, the process may be as Rose has said, in which case have we learnt nothing? Can the bishops give a lead now, not dither as they seem to have done over the past five years. Let us find honour in one another and move on - Please!

Graeme Buttery

Posted by: Graeme Buttery on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 1:37pm BST

> One wonders what sort of Church Order this will continue to perpetuate in the Church of England, and what sort of 'catholicity', in terms of episcopal collegiality, will become entrenched within the ethos of the Mother Church of world-wide Anglicanism. (Fr Ron Smith)

> take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak (1 Corinthians 8:9)

Why such ruthlessness and exclusion? Why not mercy and inclusion?

Why put abstract questions of Church Order, catholicity and collegiality before the cure of souls?

Posted by: Veuster on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 6:48pm BST

Graeme Buttery is right that the next synod elections might produce unexpected results. But by that stage the legislation will have completed every stage except final approval. All the new synod will be able to do is vote on it in the form it receives it. If the legislation is rejected in 2015, parliament may intervene.

Re episcopal leadership, I am sure their Lordships will provide a greater steer this time - but, by opting for option 1 as the starting point, they are instigating a process which will leave all matters of provision, including sacramental assurance, to non binding instruments.

Posted by: Rose on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 8:08pm BST

"But what ever comes has to be for all anglicans and then it has to be put to bed, and left - not fiddled with in five years time."

This will not be possible. I think traditionalists have not yet understood the depth of outrage in Parliament and among the general public after November's vote. The CoE has been given time to sort itself out but the expectation is that it will find a way to have women as bishops. If that does not happen, there will be no five years' grace, there will be political intervention.

After the November vote I wrote to my own (conservative) MP asking if he would consider lobbying for disestablishment if the CoE did not have women bishops soon. He replied saying that he did not think it was appropriate to intervene in the church's internal process but that, yes, if it really looked as if it would continue to discriminate against women, disestablishment could be considered, although it would be an option no-one would really want.

Just because the political focus has shifted away from the CoE for the time being people should not believe that we're back to business as usual in the way it was before November.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 25 May 2013 at 10:21pm BST

I think it would be preferable to try and get final approval in July 2015. New Synods do not like to rubber stamp something that they do not own. There have been problems with far less controversial matters than this. A positive lead from bishops and less apology about the whole process. I think getting the measure through may have been possible but the bishops kept suggesting that 'improvements' could be made. They couldn't deliver and those who were unhappy remained unhappy and anxious. If the positive feel can be maintained then we may get somewhere.

Posted by: Susan Cooper on Sunday, 26 May 2013 at 12:04am BST

"Why such ruthlessness and exclusion? Why not mercy and inclusion?"

Women have been asking these questions for, oh, about 2,000 years now.

Posted by: Jeremy on Thursday, 30 May 2013 at 3:18am BST

> Women have been asking these questions for, oh, about 2,000 years now.

Indeed. But two wrongs don't make a right. Is a bald "conform or get out" a Christ-like way of doing things? I repeat - why not mercy and inclusion?

Posted by: Veuster on Thursday, 30 May 2013 at 1:50pm BST

'Is a bald "conform or get out" a Christ-like way of doing things?'

It depends on what people are being asked to conform to.

The word "Christ-like" also begs the question. With some people who were not up to standard, Christ was quite exclusionary.

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 31 May 2013 at 3:01am BST
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