Comments: Women in the Episcopate - diocesan synod votes 2

St Eds & Ips - Not a single vote against in any house!! Well done them.

Posted by Fr Paul at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 7:00am GMT

St. Eds and Ips- is that one of the dioceses where female priests outnumber male?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:51am GMT

So, I hope, this looks like a done deal and by the time Chichester comes to vote the outcome there will be irrelevant.

Posted by Richard Ashby at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:51am GMT

Interesting that Chelmsford and Wakefield are such outliers for the laity. The overall rate of "no" is 7.6%, but it's 22% in Wakefield and 16% in Chelmsford, and if you consider the overall average without those two, it drops to 5.4%. What makes the laity in those two dioceses so different to the rest of the country, I wonder?

Posted by Interested Observer at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:58am GMT

Well, as Wakefield will soon no longer exist, you don't need to worry about it any more.

Posted by ian at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 1:16pm GMT

"What makes the laity in those two dioceses (Chelmsford and Wakefield) so different from the rest of the country"? Well maybe they just want to hold on to the Scriptural, Traditional and Historical view of episcopacy, in line with the great Churches of both East and West who retain the ancient three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon in its original form.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 2:57pm GMT

Interested Observer, you also need to look at the Sheffield vote. Chelmsford and Wakefield are not the only two to date seemingly out of step with the majority. I don't have access to the data but I do wonder whether is any correlation between length of service on Diocesan Synods and a particular way of voting on this issue.

Posted by RevPRJM at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 4:54pm GMT

"Well maybe they just want to hold on to the Scriptural, Traditional and Historical view of episcopacy, in line with the great Churches of both East and West who retain the ancient three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon in its original form."

Oh dear! Yet another cry for the sanctity of The Way It' Has Always Been. No matter that we have revised our views on such things as slavery and divorce; have long ignored the fact that bishops and priests are a "new" idea; that Jesus seems to have treated women with culturally unprecedented equality; that no one is disputing the role of "the ancient three-fold ministry of bishop, priest and deacon," but only recognizing - FINALLY! - the ministry of women as Jesus did; and that very many theological arguments have been made for this enlargement.

That which has been can never change? I thought that went out with the Meades and the Persians?

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 6:12pm GMT

Having looked at the Sheffield figures it would seem that in the Houses of Clergy and Laity the voting was 3 to 1 in favour of the innovation. What surprised me most was not the result of the vote but how few there seem to be on the Sheffield Diocesan Synod. Including the two bishops a mere 71 people, which makes me wonder how such a modest diocese escaped the great Yorkshire amalgamation. Would it not have made good sense to include Sheffield in the new mega-diocese of Leeds?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 7:22pm GMT

Gosh its like a Russian referendum!

Posted by robert ian williams at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 7:26pm GMT

I think some of the contributors to this thread are forgetting that the motion at diocesan synods is proving successful only because the new measure is making provision for traditionalists. Lack of such provision was the reason the legislation fell at General Synod the last time.

Posted by Benedict at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 7:27pm GMT

The numbers of voters is so small that random fluctuation (one of the constants of life) would account for the highs and lows in any of the houses. There is no need for any further explanation!

Posted by RevPeterM at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:03pm GMT

Although the soviet style majorities in Diocesan Synods are encouraging and useful as points of reference (and I hope we can get a vote in favour in London in due course), you have to remember:

1. Diocesan Synods aren't really representative of anything more than who could be bothered to stand. They have little power, and contested elections are rare. So a vote in favour in Diocesan Synod, good news though it is, is merely a snapshot of what a bunch of [probably fairly representative, but first past the post elected] people think. Because GS elections are STV elections, you can get a very different bunch of people elected to General Synod whose views aren't necessarily congruent with the Dio Synod representatives.

2. The votes are not mandates. Their only function under the Synodical Govt legislation is that we need to get a majority of Synods voting in favour for the reference to go through. So it would be a disaster if there were no such majority, but that was never going to be the case. General Synod members have no particular need to take notice of how their Diocese votes (which suited many of us in 1992!)

3. The crucial thing is getting 2/3 in the House of Laity in General Synod at final approval. That's what matters, and that's where we have the hearts and minds exercise in order to persuade opponents that this can be made to work. Many will still vote against on principle, even if they think the Measure is workable.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 8:11pm GMT

Peter says that "At least 23 dioceses must vote in favour if the draft legislation is to return to General Synod in July." Should that not be 22, given that Bradford, Ripon & Leeds, and Wakefield are merging to become the Diocese of Leeds (aka West Yorkshire and the Dales) at Easter 2014 and so, at the deadline date for diocesan synods to vote on the Article 8 reference and return their voting figures to the General Synod, namely 22 May 2014, there will be only 42 dioceses, not 44?

An academic point, perhaps, given the overwelming support so far for the new legislation, but one of legal interest, nonetheless.

In response to Richard Ashby, as I pointed out on a related thread last week, 25 diocesan synods are due to vote on the reference before the end of March, so it does look, using Richard's terminology, that securing the necessary simple majority will be a 'done deal' by then.

+Pete Broadbent is right, though: what matters ultimately is achieving a 2/3rds majority at final approval stage in the House of Laity where, with a vote in July 2014, the composition of the House will be the same as it was in November 2012.

In answer to Father David, female priests in St Eds & Ips do not (yet) outnumber males but we have been strong supporters of women's ministry for several years. For 3 years one of our two archdeacons was a woman (though she has now returned to parish ministry) and we have a female cathedral dean. In June 2011 the votes on the previous legislation were: Laity 51 for, 2 against, 3 abstentions; Clergy 41 for, 3 against, 2 abstentions; bishops: 2 for, 0 against, 0 abstentions. In the November 2012 final approval vote, all 7 of our GS members voted in favour.

Posted by David Lamming at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 9:35pm GMT

Father David

If I have counted correctly there were 99 members (plus an unknown number of vacancies) of Sheffield Diocesan Synod in September 2012; you can see a list of names here:

So I would say the attendance was good if 71 of them turned up and voted for what was a foregone conclusion.

But you cannot read any great significance into the size of a diocesan synod as this is a matter for local decision. The church representation rules require the total membership to be between 100 and 270, and the sizes of the houses of clergy and laity to be approximately equal, but that is all.

Posted by Peter Owen at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 10:02pm GMT

Not quite like a Russian referendum as the results, so far, are well below 93%. What Khrushchev gave away 60 years ago as a gift to Ukraine, Putin has now taken back with a landslide vote in favour of being part of Russia by the people who actually live in the Crimea. Western politicians may posture and protest as much as they like but the people have spoken decisively.
Ian's comment about the vote in the Wakefield diocese not mattering because soon it will no longer exist is a little unkind, they voted decisively not to be part of the greater union but their views were ignored and overruled. So much for democracy! I suppose the good folk of Wakefield could either declare UDI or ask President Putin to send in the troops to free them from that monstrous new creation - known as the diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales. I always thought that those who live in Yorkshire were well known for their independence?

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 10:04pm GMT

Diocesan synods are treating this more seriously than I imagined, i.e. not just going through the motions through weariness. We had a good debate in St Albans with quite a number of speakers. I suggested that now was the time not to continue to vote against. What sort of statement is that at this stage? The measure has good provision. No bishop (male or female) will dare to ride roughshod over the Declaration or not abide by the Ombudsman. While no laity voted against, three clergy (who I respect) continued to argue their view on headship and voted against. One spoke on that subject and another on canonical obedience. Surely the time for these arguments has passed? Good final speech by a woman theologian on Biblical interpretation, and she has a high view of Scripture.

Posted by Anthony Archer at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 10:16pm GMT


Since there were 44 dioceses at the time of the reference, the synods of the three old Yorkshire dioceses are all meeting before they cease to exist, and the first meeting of the diocesan synod of the new diocese is not until the autumn, I think it is reasonable to assume that a majority of the 44 is what is required.

But as you say it almost certainly an academic point.

Posted by Peter Owen at Sunday, 16 March 2014 at 10:22pm GMT

Nice summary from Pete Broadbent.

A consensus has formed that women must be raised to the purple as quickly as possible. Now that provision for dissenters has been fixed, a two-thirds majority in Synod is a foregone conclusion. Any member with an ounce of pragmatism knows that a second "no" vote will be a disaster for their cause. Even those who can't vote "yes" on principle may well abstain. Only the most stubborn die-hards will try to make a fight of it, and they'll be brushed aside.

The Church of England will likely have female bishops before the end of this year, and certainly by the end of the next.

Once this formality is put to rest, the church can move on to the real controversy, the fight to repeal its homophobic policies and affirm gay relationships through the sacrament of marriage. Progressives who've kept quiet on the grounds that fighting for gay people's rights will distract from female ordination will then have no excuse. I hope the theologian mentioned by Anthony Archer, along with WATCH and others who've fought for women's rights, will repurpose their formidable skills to fight for the rights of gay people.

It would be good to see Pete Broadbent select an affirming hermeneutic that suits, and join them.

Posted by James Byron at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 12:17am GMT

The one way in which the numbers in diocesan synods is not "academic" is this: all members of General Synod are also members of their diocesan synods, and may vote in them. That does not, of course, mean that everyone is either present or voting when a diocesan synod meets, but if - when we have all the results - the total number of lay votes against is very small and then we still do not get 2/3 majority in HoL in General Synod, there will be some interesting questions to be answered.

On the whole, however, I find myself (unusually on this issue!) in agreement with Benedict: the provision is good so those who will require that provision feel better about the legislation (on the whole). It is not what everyone would have wanted, but it is a good package worked out by people from across the board, and so hopefully should command consensus. People should not, I think, underestimate either the effect of what happened in Nov 2012, or of the facilitated conversations that have taken place since. It is also, it seems to me, astonishing the difference that some determined episcopal leadership can make.

Posted by Hannah at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 9:06am GMT

Ian's comment about the vote in the Wakefield diocese not mattering because soon it will no longer exist is a little unkind,

Sorry, Father David, I was trying my hand at (is it?) irony. I obviously got it wrong. I was born and brought up in Wakefield in the days when there were great octopus like posters urging us Wakefieldians to fight off being taken over by the then West Riding. What was successful then, obviously didn't work with the great Leeds takeover in the church.

Posted by ian at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 12:06pm GMT

Clearly, many of those opposed to women bishops have withdrawn from the struggle in order to spend more time with their other prejudices.

Posted by William Raines at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 2:34pm GMT

Clearly, many of those opposed to women bishops have withdrawn from the struggle in order to spend more time with their other prejudices.

And by that you mean?

Posted by ian at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 3:38pm GMT

Ian: Well, for example,

Posted by William Raines at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 4:39pm GMT

Yes, well, I guess you have a point.

Posted by ian at Monday, 17 March 2014 at 4:55pm GMT

Could someone please summarize what the provision ended up being? Somehow I missed the final version. There was a lot of talk about always having one bishop who believed in male headship and another odd one involving the false theology of "taint" if a woman bishop participated in ordinations and consecrations (even if there were several guys participating). I never got a grip on what was finally written up.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 3:14pm GMT

The Tatars( native population) are not as enthusiastic as you, David.This is the Sudetenland all over again.

Posted by Robert ian Williams at Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 9:22pm GMT

"There was a lot of talk about always having one bishop who believed in male headship"

It's fascinating to speculate about how they think that would work.

Imagine something similar had happened in the US South in the 1960s. Imagine provision had been put in place so that, in perpetuity, those that wanted to have a white supremacist bishop who abjured miscegenation and kept black ministers out of churches would be entitled to alternative oversight. In such a situation, I don't doubt that even today there would be a small pool of irreconcilables who would fill the pews of a small handful of churches.

But can you imagine what the talent pool of applicants for that bishop's post would look like? In 1960 there might have been a decent slate of people wanting to be the racist bishop, but in 2020, you would struggle to find an applicant who wasn't either unhinged or a neo-Nazi, either of which would reflect extremely badly on the church that appointed them.

Similarly, the promises of being guaranteed a bishop with appropriate views on women. In 2014, there's probably a reasonable supply of people who fit the ideological profile and are in other ways qualified to be bishops. In a generation's time, I wonder how many people would apply for the post and not look dangerously weird. One can imagine the sole applicant being a protestant version of Bishop Richard Williamson, writing unhinged nonsense about the evils of women going to university and wearing shorts (see

Williamson is not only a sexist idiot but a convicted holocaust denier. He claims the Protocols are genuine and that no Jews died in concentration camps of anything other than natural causes. All of which made Joseph Ratzinger's decision to readmit him to the catholic church and appoint him a bishop both astounding and deeply damaging. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel immediately broke off relations with the Vatican, for example. That is the sort of trouble you get into when you attempt to stay in communion with extremists: you might be able to tolerate their views on the topic at hand, but by and large they aren't just unhinged on one topic, they're unhinged across the board. The chances are that if, in a generation's time, the CofE has to cast around to find a sexist bishop to fill the "has to believe in male headship" role, they'll find the small pool of people who apply will be seedy, peculiar and have toxic views on other topics; appointing such people as bishops will not end well. Read the Williamson saga here and ponder what might happen.

Posted by Interested Observer at Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 8:07pm GMT

This is *Thinking* Anglicans. There is no comparison to be made between "headship" evangelicals (even though I think they are entirely misguided) and a fruitcake fascist renegade RC bishop. Please do better.

Posted by Pete Broadbent at Saturday, 22 March 2014 at 11:59am GMT
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