Comments: Women bishops legislation: WATCH Statement of Concerns

"4. The bishops were repeatedly informed by those supporting the Measure that any amendment along these lines would put the Measure at greatly increased risk of defeat in July. They are now expressing surprise at our reaction. We wonder what it is that stops the House of Bishops hearing and taking seriously the voices of ordained women and all who support their ministry."

The mentality of the House of Bishops in imagining that they know better than everyone else was evident in the Covenant fiasco and is evident once again. This time, the failure of the bishops to listen and take seriously the voices of women in the Church and the supporters of full inclusion of women in the episcopacy will have much more serious consequences. The Covenant was such an ill-conceived ploy to marginalize support for full inclusion of LGBT people in the Church that it never stood a chance of passing in any province located in a country that recognized the full humanity of LGBT persons. Now, the bishops insist that the Church should create laws that will supervise the pastoral care given by women bishops and establish their limited role for the forseeable future.

Somehow, so many of the men remain surprised that this is not equality. I can see the comments now that will urge passage of ths amended legislation at any cost. Bishops in the CofE are known as some of the best educated bishops in the world. And, yet, they display this strange deafness to the needs of people long oppressed by the Church. For women and LGBT persons in the Church half-measures and waiting for the reign of God will not do. I can't imagine how any member of Synod who supports full inclusion of women in all orders of the Church could vote for this measure, as amended.

Posted by karen macqueen+ at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 4:13pm BST

I am very glad to read what WATCH have said, particularly that they cannot support the legislation as it now stands.

What they say is so true. We have compromised enough- in fact, too much. And receive no thanks or appreciation for it. Forward in Faith,REFORM, the Church Union, and so on, just take and take, and seem too troubled in their cul de sac to meet others half-way -or even notice we are here !

I know from decades of anglo-catholicism !

Stop ordaining women NOW ! and just forget it - or get on and ordain ministers to all orders of ministry pronto !

The we'll all know where we are.

Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 4:59pm BST

What a quandary we find ourselves in after years of discussion on this contentious issue.
The "Group of Six" were of the opinion that the House of Bishops amendements did not significantly alter the Measure but merely fine tuned it.
WATCH in its considered response, following consultation with its members, is of the opinion that the Measure has been radically altered.
Who are we to believe and where are you to look for guidance to remove ourselves from this mire of our own making?

Posted by Father David at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 5:21pm BST

WATCH'S so called dispassionate report is both offensive and misguided. It has characterised opponents of women bishops, by implication, as contributing to domestic and sexual abuse in the home. Such a claim is staggering in the enormity of the accusation it levels at both women and men who, in all conscience, and because of perfectly valid and accepted theological positions, are unable to accept the innovation of women in the episcopate. WATCH is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel in seeking to respond to the recent amendments. Disgraceful.

Posted by Benedict at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 5:43pm BST

As I understood it, WATCH wrote to the House of Bishops before they discussed the legislation and warned them that they might not be able to support any further amendment. They didn't leap to judgement afterwards but consulted widely to see what their members believed what the right way forward was.

WATCH is just an organisation representing its members, it has every right to react on their behalf.

I would imagine a far greater danger to the amended legislation is the reaction of all those in the Dioceses who have taken the time and trouble to debate the issue and vote on it, whose opinion has been set aside.

Personally I feel that it would be dishonest to accept the amended measure on the basis that we can start to manipulate ourselves into a better position once women are made bishops on unequal terms. If we vote for male and female bishops to be appointed on unequal terms we can hardly argue against it later, so if we believe that women should be appointed on equal terms it is only honest to say so.

Posted by Pam Smith at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 6:36pm BST

My question is this: can we not pass this rubbish now then just sort of clear up later?

Posted by Dan BD at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 8:02pm BST

Karen MacQueen: "Bishops in the CofE are known as some of the best educated bishops in the world. And, yet, they display this strange deafness to the needs of people long oppressed by the Church."

Quite so. The C of E is very poor when it comes to justice issues. I think this is because we have been in bed with power for so long that we have lost the ability to see things from any other viewpoint. One even hears church leaders saying, of the issues of equality for women or gay people in the Church "it is a justice issue for those campaigning for this," as if this somehow means it is not also therefore a theological issue. John Sentamu, who should know better, is one the worst in that regard.

Shame on them all: injustice is unChristian, and to fight for justice is noble and Christian. That many in leadership in the C of E seem to have forgotten this truth is to our detriment, and not something to be proud of or snooty about.

Posted by Mark at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 9:01pm BST

I see a constitutional crisis coming to the C of E.

First there was the Covenant, to be pushed through on the backs of gay people. That now cannot come back, but there are people looking for the wriggle room of reintroduction.

Now there are the amendments, being pushed through on the backs of women.

In both cases it is the legacy of the disaster that has been Rowan Williams, and of the bishops out of touch.

The legislation for women bishops has the 'pro' camp in confusion, and therefore likely to fail. The pro camp is now a very large one, with a dedicated core. When this legislation fails, the recriminations could be dreadful.

This is the legacy of someone who believed in purple, in authority, in Catholicism, and whose record will be one appalling mess.

Posted by Pluralist at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 9:50pm BST

Passing this rubbish now and sorting it out later is where flying bishops came in, Dan. "A stitch in time ......"

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 10:10pm BST

Alas, WATCH has read the situation correctly. Its only error was compromising in the first place. The proper declaration by the church is simply: “Women can be bishops and archbishop, and, where masculine words are used in the canons respecting ordination and clergy rights and responsibilities, those words should be interpreted as referring to men or women.”

It is perfectly acceptable for members of the clergy to hold to a theology that does not admit of women priests or bishops. It is unacceptable for the church to fracture into parallel churches to accommodate such a medieval theology, however.

General Synod has no choice but to vote down the legislation for women bishops.

Posted by Liionel Deimel at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 10:22pm BST

Dan BD:

No that's the problem - because these alleged small tweaks are in the legislation they will become the law of the land and will be hard to remove. That is why many Synod members like me are perplexed - we want to vote for women bishops but fear that this legislation will actually make things worse for gender equality not better. One senior woman priest said to me we should vote this through and get a few women into the HofB and then change it - but we cannot do that quite so easily.

Posted by Charles Read at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 10:55pm BST

Point two above mentions the possibility that General Synod could refer the legislation back to the House of Bishops. Could someone explain how this would work, what the timeline would be, and whether it would be possible for the Synod to ask the House of Bishops to 'unamend' the legislation? If this is possible, it seems to be far preferable to a defeat of the legislation in July and a delay of another five-six years.

Posted by Peter Sherlock at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 11:07pm BST

Lionel Deimel: "General Synod has no choice but to vote down the legislation for women bishops."

As we have said before, the Synod can vote, by simple majority, to ask the HoB to reconsider its amendments.

That presumably need not be a long delay -- it only needs to be long enough to get the Bishops in another room and vote again. Of course, it's quite possible, even perhaps likely, that the HoB would send the draft Measure back to the Synod in the same form. I suppose it partly depends on the strength of views expressed in the adjournment debate and the voting figures on that adjournment.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Monday, 11 June 2012 at 11:15pm BST

It seems to me that, unless the original Draft Measure is allowed to be re-presented by the House of Bishops, the only winners in this sad dispute will be the 'Forward in Faith' minority.

If the amended Measure is passed, F.i.F. will be protected from contamination by a female Diocesan.

If the amended Measure fails, there won't be any female bishops anyway. F.I.F cannot lose if this amended process is retained for G.S. in July.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 3:04am BST

It might be worth quoting Standing Order 94, which makes the reference back to the House of Bishops possible. Under Standing Order 36, such a referral would be decided by a simple majority of the whole Synod, and it would not be possible to have a vote by houses:

94. Final Approval Stage – Reconsideration by the House of Bishops
(a) After a motion for Final Approval has been moved any member of the House of Bishops or a member of the Steering Committee in charge of the Measure or Canon or other Article 7 or Article 8 business, by permission of the Chairman, may move ‘That the debate be now adjourned to enable (Short Title or other description) to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops.’ If such a motion is negatived it shall not be moved again in respect of the same business, and if it is carried no motion under paragraph (b) may be moved.

(b) Subject to paragraph (a) above after a motion for Final Approval has been moved any member, by permission of the Chairman, may move ‘That the debate be now adjourned to enable ... to be reconsidered by the House of Bishops.’ Such a motion must refer to an amendment made to the relevant business by the House of Bishops under SOs 60, 84 or 85 and, if negatived, shall not be moved again in respect of that business.

(c) SO 33 (Adjournment of Debate) shall not apply to a motion under paragraphs (a) or (b), nor while that motion is under consideration shall it be in order to move the Adjournment of Debate under that Standing Order.

(d) If a motion moved under paragraphs (a) or (b) above is carried, the business shall stand referred to the House of Bishops which:
(i) may amend any part of the text where it has been referred to the House under paragraph (a); or
(ii) may amend the part of the text altered by an amendment made by the House under SOs 60, 84 or 85 where it has been referred to the House under paragraph (b).
The business shall then be returned to the Synod in the form approved by the House under this Standing Order for further consideration by the Synod.

(e) Subject to paragraph (f) of this Standing Order, after any business has been so returned the Synod shall resume debate upon the original motion for Final Approval.

(f) Where business has been amended by the House of Bishops under paragraph (d) above, any resumed consideration thereof on the Final Approval Stage shall be subject to further compliance with SO 86 and to the making of a further declaration by one of the Presidents under SO 92 and for the purposes of the resumed debate the motion before the Synod shall be deemed to have been moved in respect of the business as so amended by the House of Bishops.

Posted by Mark Bennet at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:03am BST

"it only needs to be long enough to get the Bishops in another room and vote again".
Surely, that would be a panic response to the crisis created by the notorious two amendments. Besides - not all members of the House of Bishops are also members of the General Synod and are unlikely to be present in York next month if the General Synod, by majority vote, requests the House of Bishops to reconsider its amendments. Legislation in response to a panic attack is never a good idea. I am sure that their Lordships would require more time to ponder, consider and pray about the Synod's possible request to reconsider. Retiring to "another room" is surely not a wise option.
We still do nor know how many members of the House of Bishops voted FOR the two amendments and how many voted AGAINST. In the interests of honesty and openness - I think we should be told.

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:07am BST

"not all members of the House of Bishops are also members of the General Synod"
Er, yes, the HoB is the HoB. There isn't a different HoB for the General Synod.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:14am BST

Simon - all diocesan bishops are members of the General Synod's House of Bishops but are you sure that all Suffragan bishops and PEVs are also members of that body?
I presume that the two amendments were passed in a meeting of all bishops - including every suffragan and PEV before passing the amended Motion back for discussion and debate at the York meeting of the General Synod. Or am I mistaken in this assumption and we already have first and second class bishops -not only in the sense of diocesans and suffragans - but those who are on the General Synod and thus have a vote and those who aren't and are thus disenfranchised?

Posted by Father David at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 7:30am BST

The HoB consists of all diocesan bishops plus the Bishop Suffragan of Dover, plus seven representative suffragans elected by the northern and southern suffragans -- 3 and 4 respectively. In addition the PEVs may attend but have no vote (unless they are elected representative suffragans, which Beverley is).

All diocesan and suffragan bishops do meet, and they style this grouping the "College of Bishops".

General Synod standing orders give the right to determine the final form of a Measure to the HoB, not to all the bishops.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:22am BST

What the Bishops have done is unconstitutional and against natural justice. One understands the motivation to offer the hand of goodwill towards those who did not support the measure, but it is the PERMANENCE of such an offer that sticks in the craw. If they had suggested a three-year transition period with a role for traditionalist Bishops, that might have been (very reluctantly) acceptable, might it not?
I had thought previously that the Flying Bishops measure was quite a noble gesture, to allow the trads to come to the table in their own time, but what did they do? They used the time to become more and more entrenched in attitude. THEY ACTUALLY THINK THAT IF THEY KEEP PROCRASTINATING THEY CAN REVERSE THE WHOLE THING. So hang on to what we have achieved, even if we have to work for one last heave.

Posted by David Turner at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 2:51pm BST

I am glad WATCH has come out so strongly. I made my first speech on this issue in Church Assembly in 1966.I long for women bishops. I may not see them now BUT there is no way I would desire women bishops on these terms. If the debate is not adjourned then this Measure must be voted down.

Posted by Jean Mary Mayland at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 5:52pm BST

I agree that WATCH are right to take a very strong stand on this. The bishops must withdraw their amendment. There is no distinction in Christ between male and female.

Posted by davigoss at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 9:40pm BST

WATCH has been more than gracious. I think there are two things that should happen:

1. Vote the Measure down (actually, even if it is passed, I rather wonder whether Parliament would pass such a discriminatory piece of legislation!?)

2. Start the campaign for a Single Clause Measure.

Posted by JeremyP at Tuesday, 12 June 2012 at 10:35pm BST

Interesting piece from Elaine Storkey on Fulcrum's web-page.

Posted by Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer at Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 5:06am BST

Thank you for that clarification, Simon, which seems to prove that we do indeed already have first and second class bishops.
Q. When is a bishop a second class bishop?
A. When he is a member of the "College of Bishops" but not a member of the "House of Bishops" and therefore deprived of a vote on important doctrinal issues.
How arcane is that?
I was pleased to see that the Bishop of Beverley can be regarded as first class - the only one of the trinity of PEVs not to join the Ordinariate.
I think that Jeremy is correct in his wondering whether Parliament would approve of any legislation which may appear to be discriminatory. If the amended Measure in its present form were passed by the General Synod (which now appears to be highly unlikely) then the Parliamentary Ecclesiastical Committee would also be highly unlikely to look favourably upon it. At the same time that same committee when scrutinising the legislation for women to be ordained priest were much concerned to ensure that those who in all conscience were unable to accept this ministerial innovation were assured of an honoured and continuing place within the Established Church.

Posted by Father David at Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 5:46am BST

It seems to me to be entirely sound that the HoB consists primarily of the diocesan bishops. Ecclesiologically, they are the Fathers in God, the chief pastors of their respective dioceses. Each diocese is represented equally. We may not always agree with them either collectively or individually, but in an episcopal church this does make sense.

Diocesan bishops are the ones with authority, jurisdiction etc; bishops suffragan act in accordance with the instrument of delegation from their diocesan bishop. So suffragans are not independent.

The Bishop of Dover is present to represent the diocese of Canterbury, independently of its bishop, who is usually to be found chairing and facilitating discussion. Ecclesiologically that's a bit of a mess, but I understand the practical logic. The 7 other suffragans ensure that the views of the other bishops are represented, but they are clearly not in the same position as diocesan bishops.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Wednesday, 13 June 2012 at 11:01pm BST

But presumably, Simon, the Bishop of Dover and the other seven suffragans have equal voting rights as the diocesans which rather knocks your argument on the head and makes some bishops (i.e. House of Bishops bishops as opposed to those "outside the camp") more equal than others. I'm sure that in no way (although from different Provinces) the Bishop of Beverley represents the views of the Bishop of Grantham within that curious curia - the House of Bishops.
"Ecclesiologically that's a bit of a mess" - At the present time - ecclesiologically the Church of England is a bit of a mess.

Posted by Father David at Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 8:15am BST

"Ecclesiologically, they are the Fathers in God, the chief pastors of their respective dioceses."

- Simon Kershaw -

AH!. Now I see the real problem: 'Fathers in God'!
There will no doubt be some reluctance to having to address someone as 'Mother in God'. However, many of the male bishops might not be averse to calling the B.V.M. by her traditional title 'Mother OF God'.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Thursday, 14 June 2012 at 12:53pm BST

Whilst I achingly agree that we should take a strong stand against discrimination and most of angry me wants to say ‘No,No,No!’ to a remaining discriminatory clause – what a crying waste this could be. I am more inclined to have faith in what certain women waiting in the wings can do in the eye of the very real storm facing the Anglican communion at all levels. The very women we might wish to delay for a more favourable climate are those who have the grace and guts to openly address the major problems in the disaster zone. They will I believe get on with the rescue operation with those who can also clearly see why the the ship appears to be going down in the eyes of some observers. They are better supported this time around with many on hand with whom they may pray and develop some overall healing strategies. It’s Jesus on the stormy seas, so we have to try walking on the water to him.’ Plunge in!’ I say, however chilling this may prove to be in the future.We are only hoping to carry passengers to the safety of a shore and if we expect our journey to be entirely safe and comfortable then we are heading in the wrong direction and are in for a drowning of sorts anyway. The opposition is looking very weak and they have shrunk in they eyes of many inteligent Anglicans and the wider Church and enquirers in various areas of life. These discussions take place in the wider context of the media who are in turn informing the 'over the fence' and 'fireside' discussions. Many observers and 'would be' Christians are looking to the courage of our convictions. We cannot always argue from Scripture and reason and our experience of working with Scripture and tradition is painful to say the least. However, this experience is illuminating as I believe, the Holy Spirit intends it to be. I say this as someone who has a Bible at her side at all times as I try to ponder the truth of the Saviour I seek. This quote is not in the Bible I wonder why?! “If you bring forth that which is within you, what you have will save you. If you do not bring it forth, what you do not have within you will kill you.”

Posted by Revd Rosie Bates at Saturday, 3 November 2012 at 5:09pm GMT
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