Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops: news and comment

Here is an interesting perspective from Nigeria: Paul Obi for This Day Live Anglican Church Rejects Women Bishops amid Rancour

Alan Wilson Church & State: Another fine mess?

John Lloyd for Reuters A church divided against itself cannot stand

The Bishop of Liverpool spoke about women bishops in the House of Lords yesterday (during a debate about preventing violence against women).

Jody Stowell asks Are Women Really Human?

Ed Thornton has two articles in today’s Church Times that are available to non-subscribers.
C of E to set about resolving deadlock on women bishops
Campaigners seek to change the system


responses to Archbishops' Council press release

The Guardian had this news report in today’s newspaper: Lizzy Davies Church of England urged urgently to revive female bishops plan.

Affirming Catholicism has issued this Affirming Catholicism Press Statement the full text of which is reproduced below the fold.



"Women Bishops – The Way Ahead"

Joint Press Statement From The Chairmen Of The Catholic Group And Reform in General Synod
also available here.

Women Bishops – The Way Ahead

The Chairmen of the Catholic Group in General Synod and the conservative Evangelical group Reform, who called for talks to break the deadlock over legislation to enable the consecration of women as bishops, have received acknowledgement of their request from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Canon Simon Killwick (Catholic Group) and Prebendary Rod Thomas (Reform) have today further pledged themselves to do everything they can to ensure the speedy and safe passage of fresh legislation through the General Synod.

They said, “If agreement can be reached at round-table talks on fresh legislation which provides clearly and fairly for all members of the Church of England, there is no reason why fresh legislation should not be fast-tracked through the Synod before the next elections in 2015.”

The Synod’s Standing Orders only prevent the reconsideration of the same legislation during this period.

“It has never been our intention to prevent the consecration of women as bishops; our concern has always been for legislation which also made clear and fair provision for the substantial minority,” the Chairmen concluded.

The legislation which failed last week in the Synod would have had devastating consequences for the diversity and mission of the Church of England, had it been passed. We want the Church of England to continue to be a broad and comprehensive national Church.

Canon Simon Killwick
Prebendary Rod Thomas
(Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod) (Chairman of Reform)


Uganda anti-gay legislation: latest news and comment

Updated Friday afternoon

I last reported on the situation in Uganda a few weeks ago, in Uganda anti-gay bill requested by Christians. And before that in June Bishops support Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I have seen no more recent statement from the Anglican bishops in Uganda.

Meanwhile, the proposed legislation moves nearer to enactment. Here are a few recent comment articles:

Some news reports:

A detailed clause by clause analysis of the bill starts here, and ends here.


Women bishops and the laity vote – voting records of the eight

We published earlier today details of a letter to The Times. It was signed by eight people who are supporters of women bishops, but voted against the Measure last week because they thought that the provisions for opponents were inadequate.

I have prepared a table of the recent relevant voting records of the signatories. This may give an indication of what they would find acceptable.

The main items are these three from July 2010 (the last meeting of the 2005/2010 Synod)

  • creation of additional dioceses,
  • compulsory delegation from women bishops,
  • the archbishops’ amendment (“co-ordinate juristiction”).

In each case a vote for the item was a vote in favour of adding the provision to the measure.

The links in the first column of the table are to our articles giving more details of the various votes.


Women bishops and the laity vote

A letter appears in The Times today signed by eight members of the House of Laity who voted against the Measure last week, and referring in the text to a larger group of twelve people of a similar mind. Times subscribers can read the letter in full here, and there is a report of the letter at Anglican Mainstream over here.

The following excerpts make clear, first their point of view, and second their specific proposal for the way forward.

First their point of view:

…Most of us who make up the dozen, whose votes against the Measure did not reflect any serious opposition to women bishops, had taken the trouble to state clearly in our election addresses in 2010 that we would vote against the Measure if it did not in our judgment make ample provision of oversight in the way that the minorities needed, or honour promises made to the same minorities only 20 years ago.

Many of us 12 were prepared to vote for the Measure as it stood in July with a clause referring to “theological convictions” of those requiring alternative oversight, had the Bishops not lost their nerve and decided under pressure from “senior women” to reconsider their proposed “helpful” clause…

Second their proposals for the way forward:

…But we now all believe there can be a simpler way forward. A new briefer Measure could incorporate the 1993 Act of Synod governing alternative oversight as we have it, with all the valuable experience it has provided of living together with fellow Anglicans who cannot accept women priests and bishops. The new Measure should provide for alternative oversight on a churchwide basis to those unable to recognise their woman diocesan bishop and also to those parishes that accept or have women clergy which are unsuitably served by a traditional orthodox male diocesan bishop in a predominantly conservative diocese. It will minimally amend but not repeal the 1993 Measure which has served us all well. The Church must be concerned for, and provide for, all its members…

The eight signatories are:

Tom Sutcliffe, Mary Judkins, Phillip Rice, John Davies, Anne Bloor, Priscilla Hungerford, Keith Malcouronne, Christopher Corbet

More information about their voting records will follow soon.


Archbishops' Council says restart process to admit women to the episcopate at July 2013 General Synod

The Archbishops’ Council issued this statement today.

Statement on the Conclusion of the Meeting of the Archbishops’ Council November 2012
28 November 2012

“The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England met on November 27-28th to consider a wide ranging agenda. A substantial amount of time was given over to the discussion of the recent vote by General Synod on Women in the Episcopate.

“As part of their reflections, many council members commented on the deep degree of sadness and shock that they had felt as a result of the vote and also of the need to affirm all women serving the church – both lay and ordained – in their ministries.

“In its discussions the Council decided that a process to admit women to the episcopate needed to be restarted at the next meeting of the General Synod in July 2013. There was agreement that the Church of England had to resolve this matter through its own processes as a matter of urgency. The Council therefore recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time, put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July.”


The Archbishops Council is a body of 19 members which acts as the standing committee of the General Synod and has a number of other responsibilities as a trustee body.

The members of the council include the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the chairs of the House of Clergy and the Chairs of the House of Laity. Full membership of the groups is available here.


Women Bishops: yet more news and comment

First, here are two press reports on yesterday’s release of the General Synod voting lists.

Lizzy Davies in The Guardian Almost half the lay members who voted against female bishops were women

John Bingham in the Telegraph Half of women bishops opponents in Synod were women

And then there are several comment articles.

Bruce Kaye for ABC Religion and Ethics The triumph of the radicals: Women bishops and the Church of England

Savi Hensman for Ekklesia Women bishops: how to move forward?

John Coles, director of New Wine Synod Vote: Women Bishops

Paul Roberts A possible way out of the Women Bishops bind

Colin Coward of Changing Attitude The deeper (mis)understandings which divide us

Alice Udale-Smith for Varsity Female bishops and me: a defence of the General Synod

And finally, WATCH has issued a press release “Pressure for simple legislation mounts as first analysis of voting patterns shows General Synod House of Laity dramatically out of step with lay members of diocesan synods” which is copied in full below the fold.



Women Bishops: electronic voting results

Electronic voting results for last week’s General Synod on the women bishops legislation have now been published. These take the form of a pdf file, arranged by house, by vote (for/against/abstain) and then alphabetically.

Arun Arora, the Church of England Director of Communications, in announcing the publication of these results has reminded us all that Matthew 5:43-48 applies.

For convenience I have put the results into a spreadsheet arranged by synod number (which brings members together by diocese) for each house and added absentees and vacancies.

For this purpose an “absentee” is someone who did not record an electronic vote (for/against/abstention). There are various reasons for being an absentee; examples known to me include illness and being on sabbatical in New Zealand. In addition some at least of the three ecclesiastical judges consider it inappropriate to vote on church legislation which they may later have to enforce.

Update I have now added a webpage version of my spreadsheet.


Women bishops: what might Parliament do?

There is an excellent article discussing this, on the Law and Religion UK blog, but written by Bob Morris of the UCL Constitution Unit.

He is the principal author of Church and State in 21st Century Britain: The Future of Church Establishment (Palgrave, March 2009).

Women as bishops: should Parliament intervene?

I urge all TA readers to study this article in full. His concluding paragraphs:

The key political and constitutional problem is that, although the Church of England now behaves largely as if it is a voluntary society, it remains nonetheless part of the state. The Queen as head of state is ‘Supreme Governor’ of the Church, must be in communion with it, holds the title Fidei Defensor and – nominally – appoints its senior clergy. The Archbishop crowns and anoints the new sovereign, and the Church conducts important public ceremonies and rituals effectively in relation to the UK as a whole. The Church’s courts remain courts of the land, although they lost their public law jurisdictions in the 1850s. Twenty-six bishops continue to sit in the House of Lords – each nowadays actually appointed by a private, unaccountable committee of the Church itself.

These are high matters and could be addressed again by Parliament. However, whatever the degree of change made, none could procure the appointment of female bishops unless Parliament legislated directly to that end. In other words, disestablishment could not by itself resolve the particular question of female bishops. On the other hand, what disestablishment could do would be – a very different matter – to permit the state and Parliament to wash its hands of Church of England affairs altogether.

Since nothing so far suggests that Parliament contemplates such a rupture, it follows that the Church must be allowed to deal with the present crisis itself. Whether in doing so it strengthens the case for a radical review of remaining church/state ties is another question.

However, it appears from a story broken exclusively in The Times this morning by Ruth Gledhill that William Fittall has a somewhat different view. The original Times story is behind a paywall, but it starts this way:

The Church of England is facing a “major constitutional crisis” as a result of the fiasco last week over women bishops, according to an internal document written for the archbishops by one of their most senior staff. The Established Church must take steps in July next year to consecrate women bishops and vote them through by 2015, otherwise it risks the matter being taken out of its hands by Parliament, the secret memo says. It is to be debated behind closed doors this week by the Archbishops’ Council. The memo, a hard copy of which has been handed to The Times, is intended for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the council members. Women in the Episcopate — Where Next? is a response to growing outrage in and beyond…

The Telegraph has published this version of the story: Failure to vote in women Bishops risks ‘constitutional crisis’ in Church.

And there is this Church ‘faces crisis’ over bishops.

And the Guardian now has Church needs radical new strategy over female bishops, says internal memo

And here are some further quotes from the memo:

“What is for sure and not for maybe is that urgent and radical new thinking is now needed if major shifts in position are to be secured.”

“Unless the Church of England can show very quickly that it’s capable of sorting itself out we shall be into a major constitutional crisis in Church State relations, the outcome of which cannot be predicted with confidence.”

“We have to do so because time is not on our side. Parliament is impatient. In addition to the all-party savaging that the Church of England had yesterday [last Thursday] in the House of Commons and the Prime Minister’s reference to the need to give us a ‘sharp prod’, there was ferocious criticism from some members at the House of Lords at a lunchtime meeting at which the Bishop of Manchester spoke on Wednesday.

“There was a particularly telling sequence of devastating attacks from the formidable combination of Detta O’Cathain (normally a supporter), Elspeth Howe and Margaret Jay. Unless the Church of England can show very quickly that it’s capable of sorting itself out, we shall be into a major constitutional crisis in Church State relations, the outcome of which cannot be predicted with confidence.”


Women Bishops: more news and comment

Updated Sunday afternoon and evening

The Tablet editorial Measure of compromise

ABC Religion and Ethics John Milbank Unrepresentative laity: The women bishops debacle demonstrates why bishops need more authority

Telegraph John Bingham Women bishops decision a ‘stab in the back’ to female clergy – Lord Carey
Adam Luser Reputation of Church damaged by decision on women bishops

Revising Reform Rachel Marszalek Women in Christian servant-leadership, with a look at Rev Angus Macleay’s summation speech from General Synod on Tuesday November 20th 2012

OurKingdom Charlotte Methuen Women bishops in the Church of England: No or not yet?

Guardian Catherine Bennett No to women bishops? It’s high time the Church of England was taught a lesson

Mail Online Marie-Elsa Bragg ‘I’m still proud of our history in the women’s ministry’: Melvyn Bragg’s curate daughter on how it feels to be stuck in the middle of the bishops debate

Lay Anglicana Rosemary Lain-Priestley A Very Significant Tipping Point

Modern Church Linda Woodhead It’s believing in the common good that’s got the Church of England into this mess over women bishops


Anglican Ink Gerald Bray Evangelical supporters of women bishops are “liberals in disguise”
to which Peter Carrell has this response: Has Gerald Bray lost the plot?

Jody Stowell The Morning After

This morning’s Sunday programme on BBC Radio 4 included a major item on women bishops starting 20 minutes from the beginning.

Telegraph John Bingham Women bishops rejection has damaged Church, traditionalist bishop admits

Eureka Street Andrew McGowan Rejection of women bishops is not terminal

Ian Paul What does the decision on women bishops mean?


Women Bishops: online petitions

There are a number of online petitions protesting in various ways against the decision by General Synod not to approve the legislation to allow women to be bishops. Here are the ones I am aware of.

No women Bishops, no automatic seats in the House of Lords

Responsible department: Cabinet Office

The Church of England on 20th Nov 2012 voted not to allow women to be Bishops. Though that is within its rights to do, this should worry the Government as Church of England Bishops are awarded legislative power through seats in the House of Lords.

The Church has chosen to be a sexist organisation by refusing women the right to hold highest leadership positions and therefore should not be allowed automatic seats in the House of Lords, as this clearly does not comply with the spirit of UK Equality law.

We call on the Govt to remove the right of the Church of England to have automatic seats in the House of Lords, in line with its commitments to equality and non-discrimination, set out in the Equality Act (2010) and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979)”

Women bishops – another vote

To: Church of England “Group of Six”

Please authorise another vote in this Synod in 2013, to allow the House of Laity to reconsider the results of their vote of 20 November 2012 in the light of clearly-expressed wishes of their electorate.

Why is this important?

42 out of 44 Dioceses have voted for women bishops; the House of Laity vote clearly did not reflect the democratic wishes of the membership they are supposed to represent. A year’s delay will enable Dioceses to reflect again, and make their views even clearer to their Synodical representatives.

Unconditionally ordain Women as Bishops in the Church of England

To: The General Synod of the Church of England

The Anglican Episcopacy should be open to women. Synod and the Dioceses of the CofE have agreed this. The vote at Novembers synod has been deeply hurtful to many women, and damaged the Church as a whole.

The next time this issue is voted on it should be as a single clause: The Church of England may ordain women as Bishops.

As well as a campaigning tool, this petition is a way of gathering together people, especially lay Anglicans, who can organize to elect new and representative Deanery, Diocesan and General synods that will effect this change.

No Confidence in General Synod: Calling for an Urgent Review

We the undersigned therefore hereby lodge a vote of no confidence in General Synod until such time as it can bring its affairs into order by effecting a genuinely democratic voting system that gives a fair and proper representation to its members in place of the current inequitable system.

The Petition

We call upon the Archbishops’ Council and the House of Bishops to conduct an urgent review into the rules of governance in Synod to correct this grossly unfair system; and if the matter is not resolved before his enthronement, we further call upon Archbishop Designate the Rt Revd Justin Welby to make addressing this inequitable situation one of his first priorities following his installation at Canterbury.


CNC dates 2013

The Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) meets on two occasions per Vacancy in See to nominate candidates for diocesan bishoprics to the Crown. The dates for 2013 are now available and are listed below. They have been linked to particular vacancies, where these are known.

See of Blackburn
10 January
30/31 January

See of Manchester
11 March
19/20 April

See of Durham
8 May
6/7 June

See of Bath and Wells
18 July
5/6 September

Vacancy 5
2 October
29/30 October


Women Bishops: latest news

Guardian Aida Edemariam and Lizzy Davies Pressure piles on church to vote again on female bishops
Aida Edemariam Maria Miller interview: ‘It’s very disappointing that the Church of England has taken this decision’

Telegraph John-Paul Ford Rojas Lord Carey calls for Church of England to push through introduction of women bishops

Liverpool Echo Alan Weston Frank Field MP tables parliamentary Bill over women bishops
Here is a press release from Frank Field and this is the bill’s entry on the UK Parliament website: Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Bill.

Stephen Croft, the Bishop of Sheffield, gave this presidential address to his diocesan synod this morning.



All my choice of Opinion articles this week have been prompted by General Synod’s decision on women bishops, but they also have a wider relevance.

Simon Barrow Ekklesia Time to set church and state free

Zoe Williams Guardian Female bishops row: where could feminist Christians defect to?

Giles Fraser Guardian The puritans who scuppered female bishops revel in our criticism of them


Bishop of Gloucester questions Church’s equality law exemption

Michael Perham, the Bishop of Gloucester, has questioned the Church’s equality law exemption in a statement issued yesterday. The full statement is available online and is copied below the fold. It is summarised in this press release from the diocese.

Bishop questions Church’s equality law exemption
Friday 23 November 2012

The Bishop of Gloucester is questioning the Church of England’s right to exemption from equality laws, following the recent voting against women bishops.

In a statement released today, the Rt Revd Michael Perham speaks of his huge disappointment and sadness at the outcome of this week’s voting. He said: “It has undermined the sense of value of our church’s more than 3,000 women priests. It has puzzled our society and brought ridicule upon the Church.

“There are questions that now have to be faced. Is the Church’s exemption from equality laws defensible? Does a system that requires 2/3rds majorities in three separate houses place the bar too high? Can it make sense for members of the Synod to be permitted to vote entirely contrary to the view of their diocesan synod?”

In the Diocese of Gloucester, more than 95 per cent of the diocesan synod voted in favour of the legislation. At General Synod 74 per cent voted for the legislation.

Bishop Michael continued: “It is really important to keep a welcome place in the Church for those who are unhappy with the idea of women bishops, but they must not hold the Church back, undermine its mission or make it a laughing stock in the mind of the nation.

“There will be women bishops in the Church of England. I have no doubt about that. Our response to the Holy Spirit and the effectiveness of our mission require it.”



Women Bishops: latest opinions

Here are some more opinions on General Synod’s decision not to approve the legislation on women bishops, and transcripts of some of the speeches made in the debate.

Paul Vallely How a recalcitrant minority stopped the Church from entering the 20th let alone the 21st century

Jane Tillier Ekklesia Rejecting women bishops harms the church’s mission

Fulcrum Statement on the Decision of General Synod not to approve the legislation on Women Bishops

Sarah Coakley at ABC Religion and Ethics Has the Church of England finally lost its reason? Women bishops and the collapse of Anglican theology

John Gladwin Some reflections on the November 20th Vote

Nick Baines Get real

Jeremy Fletcher Women Bishops – After Tuesday

Kevin Lewis man boobs

Benny Hazlehurst Two feet in the grave…

Lesley Crawley I would like General Synod to pass a policy denouncing sexism

Justin Brett What now, then?

Sam Wells Response to Women Bishops Vote

Tom Wright Women Bishops: It’s about the Bible, not fake ideas of progress

Some of the speeches made to General Synod

Elaine Storkey
Philip Giddings
Tom Sutcliffe
Justin Welby, Bishop of Durham
James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool


Women bishops: Church Times report and comment

The Church Times has extensive coverage:

  • News articles:

Women-bishops Measure falls by six votes in House of Laity

Dr Williams warns: no short cut, no simple solution

Campaigners talk of betrayal and disaster after vote

Politicians express their dissatisfaction with Synod vote

  • Comment articles:

Leader: After the vote, what next?

Frances Ward What difference does women’s ministry make?

David Houlding I work happily with women clergy


fast track for equal civil marriage law?

The Daily Mail reports: MPs to vote on gay marriage ‘within weeks’: Fast track plan as opposition campaign gathers momentum by James Chapman

Plans to allow gay marriage could be voted on and approved by MPs within weeks, it emerged last night
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have agreed to fast-track the controversial change in the law – bringing it before Parliament in the New Year…

And other newspapers have followed:

Telegraph Gay marriage could be approved within weeks by Rosa Silverman

Guardian Patrick Wintour Plans for gay marriage vote likely to get go-ahead before Christmas

…There is also a belief that with Christian evangelicals on the back foot over the vote on the ordination of women bishops it may be the right time to show they may have over-played their hand, and are in the minority in terms of public opinion.

The government has repeatedly stressed that the church will not be required to administer marriages stating “no religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex religious marriages as a result of these proposals”.

In a sign of the potential cross-over, Sir Tony Baldry, the Tory MP and second church commissioner, told MPs that church members would be “deluding themselves” if they thought their views on moral issues would be given the same weight as before.

He said: “If the Church of England thinks that parliament is going to listen to them on moral issues such as same-sex marriage with considerable attention when the Church of England seems to be so out of step on others issues of concern to parliament then they are simply deluding themselves.”


House of Commons discusses women bishops

Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Estates Commissioner, answered an urgent question tabled by Labour MP Diana Johnson on women bishops on 22 November 2012.

Watch a video recording of the ensuing debate (lasts about 34 minutes) via the Democracy Live website here.

The Hansard transcript of the debate is now available here.

Initial media reports:

Yesterday there were also exchanges with the Prime Minister during Question Time, details are below the fold.