Thinking Anglicans

CofE position on same-sex marriage

In light of yesterday’s announcement, it may be helpful to reprise what the Church of England has said in the recent past about the government’s proposals concerning same-sex marriage.

Here is the original consultation document. Among other things it said:

We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.

Here is the press release issued on 12 June about the CofE’s response: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- [from the Church of England].

And here is the actual response made by the CofE published that day: A Response to the Government Equalities Office Consultation -“Equal Civil Marriage”- from the Church of England

You can follow Thinking Anglicans reporting of the ensuing news coverage by following this link and scrolling to June 2012.

Then in July, at General Synod, a lot of Questions were asked about this response. Here is a copy of the official transcript of the Questions with Answers.

Yesterday, the following further press release was published in response to what has been described as a U-turn by the government on the issue of religious participation in same-sex marriages. Like the official response it is totally anonymous. Unlike the first one, it makes not even a small attempt to mention that there is a wide range of views on this topic held by members of the Church of England.



John Bingham reports in the Telegraph that Being ‘forgiven’ makes people more generous, psychologists find.

Giles Fraser writes in The Guardian that In theology as in politics, conflict is not only real, it is necessary.

Jahnabi Barooah writes for The Huffington Post about Advent 2012: A Season Of Waiting For The Coming Of Christ. The article includes photographs of the Advent Darkness to Light service held in Salisbury Catehdral. Do view these in full screen.

Caroline Davies writes in The Guardian: Last Christmas? Partridges and turtle doves face risk of extinction in UK.

It’s not just opponents of women bishops; other Traditionalists demand ‘proper provision’.


same-sex marriage in churches: more responses

Updated Monday morning

Media reports:

Guardian David Cameron faces Tory revolt over vote on same-sex weddings

Financial Times Gay marriage clash looms for Cameron

Telegraph Cameron accused of ‘broken promise’ as gay couples told they can marry in church

Blogs and opinion:

James Townsend The consequences of the women bishops vote start to roll in

…I am relatively relaxed about Gay Marriage – I would never campaign for it, but then could never bring myself to oppose it. However, many of the traditionalists who voted against women bishops have done themselves a great disservice because they care rather more about protecting the institution of marriage than they do about women bishops.

The Prime Minister’s original position not only respected the right of churches to opt out of Gay Marriage (I haven’t yet heard anybody suggest that churches should be forced to conduct gay marriages), but including a legal ban making it non-negotiable. His new position won’t change things very much for the Church of England. The only shift is that people like the Quakers, who choose to recognise Gay Marriage, will be able to do so.

Nevertheless, we can see a hardening of the government’s position which is a direct consequence of the women bishops vote. They are less interested in accommodating the needs of a group of people who increasingly look like nutters on the sidelines.

The great tragedy is that there are some decent (non-bigoted) arguments against redefining marriage to include gay relationships. Unfortunately the debacle of women bishops, which has served nobody, means they are likely never to be listened to again.

Changing Attitude Changing Attitude welcomes government plans for gay marriage in church

LGCM Religious Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

Christian Concern Government breaks promise on same-sex marriage in churches

Maria Miller ‘We should not stand in their way’

…And I know concerns have been raised by some faith groups about our plans and what they will mean for them. I have put it on record many times, and I will say again, that I will never bring in a law that would impinge – in any way – on the Church’s power to decide who it marries and who it does not. No religious organisation, or individual, should ever be forced to conduct same sex marriages. The European Convention on Human Rights already guarantees freedom of religion, and this cannot be breached. We should not confuse this issue, as many do, with some cases currently going through the EU courts about the right to wear items such as crucifixes – this is about a fundamental religious tenet. But in spite of this guarantee, I will also be bringing forward additional watertight legal locks on the front of any primary legislation introduced, to ensure that these protections are iron clad.

Now, many religious organisations have pointed out to me that these protections would be stronger if we changed our original proposal to ban all religious organisations from conducting same sex marriages. Some, like the Quakers, Liberal Jews and Unitarians, have also said that they want to be able to conduct same-sex marriages, in the same way that they can conduct civil partnerships. My own personal view is that we should not stand in the way of this, especially if it means that those that don’t want to will be even further protected. It is a fundamental point of religious freedom that religious bodies should be able to make their own decisions on this issue.

For me, far from being a radical departure, this is simply one more in a long line of reforms which have strengthened marriage, ensuring it remains a modern and vibrant institution. Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to work closely with faith and other interested groups on how best to implement our plans…


The LGBT Anglican Consortium has issued this press statement:

The LGB&T Anglican Coalition is delighted that David Cameron has said the government’s proposals on equal marriage will include an option for ceremonies to take place on religious premises.

This outcome concurs with our own submission to the government’s consultation, and those of our partner organizations.

It is a matter of regret that the latest official Church of England response makes absolutely no mention of the breadth of views on this matter within the Church itself.

Guardian John Major joins prominent Tories backing gay marriage in church

Independent editorial: When Tories dig their heels in

The full list of names of those signing the letter first announced in the Telegraph is now available at the website of FreedomtoMarry.

Quakers in Britain Quakers welcome steps towards equal marriage

Unitarians Unitarians welcome statement by Prime Minister in support of same sex marriage in churches


Church of England responds to PM’s same sex marriage statement

The Church of England has issued this response to the statement made David Cameron reported here.

Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement on same sex marriage today, the Church of England issued the following statement.

It is important to be clear that insistence on the traditional understanding of marriage is not knee-jerk resistance to change but is based on a conviction that the consequences of change will not be beneficial for society as a whole. Our concern is for the way the meaning of marriage will change for everyone, gay or straight, if the proposals are enacted. Because we believe that the inherited understanding of marriage contributes a vast amount to the common good, our defence of that understanding is motivated by a concern for the good of all in society.

The proposition that same-sex relationships can embody crucial social virtues is not in dispute. To that extent, the Prime Minister’s claim that he supports same-sex marriage from conservative principles is readily understandable. However, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the underlying, objective, distinctiveness of men and women. This distinctiveness and complementarity are seen most explicitly in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation.

To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.

We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage.

Given the absence of any manifesto commitment for these proposals – and the absence of any commitment in the most recent Queen’s speech – there will need to be an overwhelming mandate from the consultation to move forward with these proposals and make them a legislative priority.

We welcome the fact that in his statement the Prime Minister has signalled he is abandoning the Government’s earlier intention to distinguish between civil and religious marriage. We look forward to studying the Government’s detailed response to the consultation next week and to examining the safeguards it is proposing to give to Churches.


REFORM issues statement about "threat to marriage"

Evangelicals in last minute plea to Bishops to mobilise church for marriage

The Council of Reform today urged the Church of England’s House of Bishops not to concentrate exclusively upon discussing the issue of the Consecration of Women to the Episcopate when it meets next week, but to focus additionally on the much more pressing and significant issue of the threat to marriage.

Following a 24 hour meeting in Sheffield, the Council issued an urgent statement that said,

“It is understood that Government proposals for a new law on so called “gay marriage” may be imminent and that the proposals may require consummation for a “gay marriage” to be legally valid. Everybody’s marriage will be affected by the result. In law, marriage is a sexual relationship. Incapacity and wilful refusal to consummate a marriage are grounds for annulment, and adultery is one of the five facts which demonstrate irretrievable breakdown. Significantly, it appears that parliament will leave the crucial and delicate task of defining same-sex consummation to the judiciary. However, when consummation is redefined, marriage and marital breakdown are themselves redefined and accordingly the meaning of marriage will be fundamentally altered for all.

Critical as it is to resolve our current difficulties over women bishops, we urge the House of Bishops, during their meeting, additionally to do all that is required to implement immediately a strategy for the preservation of marriage as it has been traditionally understood throughout history and across cultures. We look to them to mobilise the Church in England and specifically the Church of England to defend marriage.

The first priority must be for the Archbishops to invite the leaders of all Christian denominations in this country to ask the millions of Christians in this country to join together in a national day of prayer.

The Council had a fruitful discussion about options for resolving the dilemma over women bishops and continue to pray for a successful outcome to discussions in the New Year.


Equal civil marriage: now with religious opt-in

There are numerous press reports today concerning the results of the consultation on Equal Civil Marriage, which are due to be reported publicly next week.

The story appeared first in the Evening Standard under the headline EXCLUSIVE: Prime Minister David Cameron backs gay weddings in church. The newspaper then published this editorial comment: Gay marriage in church is a basic right.

Other British media followed:

BBC Gay marriage: David Cameron backs church role

Channel 4 News PM backs gay marriages in churches or synagogues

Guardian Churches to host same-sex weddings under Cameron-backed compromise

Telegraph Gay marriage given the green light for weddings in churches

Independent David Cameron backs same-sex marriage in church as it is announced they WILL go ahead

Daily Mail Churches to hold gay weddings as David Cameron argues same-sex couples should have equal rights

Blogs and Opinion:

Spectator David Cameron backs gay marriages in church

New Statesman Cameron provokes Tory anger as he backs gay marriages in churches

Law and Religion UK Same-sex marriage latest: Prime Minister supports church weddings

UK Human Rights Blog Allowing religious gay marriages will avoid human rights challenges


women bishops: Joint letter to the House of Bishops

The following letter to the House of Bishops of the Church of England has been sent jointly by four organisations, Inclusive Church, Modern Church, Progressive Christianity Network and the Centre for Radical Christianity.

For the attention of the House of Bishops
c/o Mr Christopher Smith
Archbishop’s Chief of Staff
Lambeth Palace

6 December 2012

We, the undersigned, deeply regret that the House of Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England failed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass legislation enabling women to be ordained Bishop. This was a huge disappointment delivering a devastating blow to the Church of England and undermining its credibility among the people of the nation it seeks to serve. It is a missed opportunity to see women and men sharing fully in the mission, ministry and leadership of the Church of England. Other Anglican provinces have found a way of doing so and been enriched by the ministry of both male and female bishops as a consequence.

There is overwhelming support for women bishops in both the church and throughout the country. We have been discussing this issue for a generation and working on the details of this compromise legislation for over ten years. Almost 73% of General Synod members voted in favour of women bishops, challenging the legitimacy of a voting process that is able to frustrate the mandate of forty-two out of forty-four Diocesan Synods. This decision may be legally binding, but it carries no moral authority, undermining the process of representation the Synodical system is supposed to enshrine.

We welcome the statement issued on the conclusion of the Meeting of the Archbishops’ Council on 27-28 November 2012, and the decision that a process to admit women to the episcopate be restarted as soon as possible.

We offer our prayerful support to members of the House of Bishops as they prepare to meet shortly in December and ask them to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.

We urge them to support the recommendation of the Archbishops’ Council to put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year with a view to bringing new legislative proposals before the General Synod as a matter of urgency, convening in February 2013 if necessary.

We ask the House of Bishops to end the theological anomaly of women priests who cannot be ordained as bishops by bringing forward the simplest possible form of legislation without delay, thus fully recognising and affirming the vital importance of women’s ministry in the church.

We strongly support the principle that a woman appointed to be a bishop must be a bishop on exactly the same terms as her male colleagues, whilst recognising the need to make pastoral provision for those unable to accept the ministry of women bishops. However a new way forward must be found and one which does not enshrine discrimination on the grounds of gender.

In the meantime, we continue to celebrate all the ways in which women enrich the life of the church and look forward to their leadership as bishops.

Rev’d Ian Wallis
Chair, St Mark’s CRC
On behalf of CRC Council

Rev’d Jonathan Clatworthy
General Secretary, Modern Church
On behalf of the Trustees of Modern Church

John Churcher
Chair, PCN Britain
On behalf of PCN Committee

Rev’d Canon Diana Gwilliams
Chair, Inclusive Church
On behalf of the Trustees of Inclusive Church

1 Comment

Linda Woodhead: A woman's place

Once again we have permission from the Editor of The Tablet to reproduce two articles from last week’s issue, dealing with the General Synod’s failure to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops. The first one by Mark Chapman was reproduced here. The second one by Linda Woodhead is below.

A woman’s place

The Church of England is supposedly more hospitable to women than the Catholic Church. After all, the Anglicans ordain women priests and there are laywomen on the General Synod. Here, an Anglican authority on the sociology of religion turns conventional wisdom on its head

Listening to the General Synod debate on women bishops last week, I chortled with recognition when I hear the line: “Of course women aren’t just there to make the tea … Though that is an important aspect of diaconal ministry.” I remember being surprised when I was being inducted as tutor in doctrine and ethics at an Anglican clergy-training college to be asked if I could sew tablecloths. I was equally surprised to find that when I addressed certain gatherings of clergy I seemed to have donned a Harry Potter invisibility cloak.

What shocked me more was the way that insults and downright cruelty went unchecked and unchallenged. I remember a woman ordinand in an Anglo-Catholic college having her “pray for me on the day of my ordination” cards torn up and returned to her pigeonhole by fellow ordinands opposed to the ordination of women. And I remember how, at the ordination services I attended for some of the first women to be made priests, the presiding bishops told them not to celebrate out of compassion for their opponents.

That was 20 years ago. Surely things have changed? It’s true that half of all Anglican ordinands are now female, and a third of all clergy. Moreover, the gender equality scores (where 100 per cent would be perfect equality) have risen from 19 per cent in 2000 to 35 per cent in 2010. But progress has been spotty – in 2010 Blackburn and Chichester Dioceses could still only manage a score of 11 per cent. With the exception of a few high-flyers, women priests are often marginalised – in the least popular parishes, outside the positions of greatest power, and as unpaid or “non-stipendiary”. According to the Church’s own statistics, in 2011 fewer than a quarter of stipendiary clergy were female, compared with more than half non-stipendiary.



Women Bishops: July too soon?

Madeleine Davies reports in today’s Church Times that July might be too soon to return to fray, bishops warn.

CAMPAIGNERS who want to see a fresh Measure to admit women to the episcopate at the General Synod next July may be disappointed, two bishops have suggested…

On Tuesday, however, the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Trevor Willmott, suggested that the House “ought to be able to share with people a process” at the Synod in July. “That will lead in due course to fresh legislative proposals.”…


Mark Chapman: Don't blame the laity

Once again we have permission from the Editor of The Tablet to reproduce two articles from last week’s issue, dealing with the General Synod’s failure to approve legislation allowing women to become bishops. The first one by Mark Chapman is reproduced below. The second one by Linda Woodhead will follow soon.

Don’t blame the laity

Most observers inside and outside the Church of England have concluded that last week’s failure by the General Synod to vote through legislation allowing women bishops has left it in turmoil. Here, a member of the synod claims that the problem is a lack of trust by the bishops

Seldom do the decisions of the General Synod of the Church of England make much of an impact outside the somewhat closeted world of ecclesiastical enthusiasts. But last week the Church’s governing body voted to reject the legislation to allow women to become bishops – and the media is still reeling. Although there was an overwhelming majority in favour, the necessary two-thirds majority was not achieved in the House of Laity, and the motion fell. I felt a sense of bewilderment and anger, and shared tears with my women colleagues. After all, the Church of England has ordained women as priests for 20 years, and it seemed a logical progression to move to women bishops. Church people have quickly criticised the House of Laity as unrepresentative of opinion, calling for a reform of the electoral system on the grounds that electors frequently know virtually nothing about the candidates.

But I am not sure that the House of Laity was really to blame. What was being voted on was not simply the principle of women bishops, but the safeguards offered to those opposed to women’s ministry. When women were ordained priests, a mechanism was created so that parishes could refuse their ministrations, and could also ask for “extended episcopal oversight” from bishops who did not ordain women. With this precedent, virtually everybody in the Church thought something similar would be needed if women were to be ordained as bishops.

Consequently after the principle of women bishops was accepted, a series of drafting groups took soundings over a number of years to produce proposals that were carefully crafted. The basic idea was that women bishops should have the same legal jurisdiction as all other bishops, but that pastoral care and celebration of the sacraments would be delegated to male bishops for those parishes unwilling to accept episcopal oversight from a woman or even from a man who had ordained a woman. This measure was presented for consideration to the General Synod in July 2010.



Women Bishops: news and comment

Sir Tony Baldry, the Second Church Estates Commissioner answered questions on women bishops and the constitution of General Synod in the House of Commons today. The full text of the questions and answers is here.

Claire Maxim has written about Righteous Anger.

One article we missed earlier is Jane Kramer in the New Yorker writing about The Fear of Women as Bishops

Chris Sugden has written this View from the Church of England (to American Anglican Council).


A TEC statement about Bishop Mark Lawrence

Updated again Friday

The Episcopal Church’s Office of Public Affairs has issued a statement titled Presiding Bishop accepts Lawrence’s renunciation.

Citing Title III, Canon 12, Section 7 of the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church, and following thorough discussion with the Council of Advice, with their advice and consent, Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has accepted the renunciation of the ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church of Mark Lawrence as made in his public address on November 17 and she has released him from his orders in this Church.

The Presiding Bishop made the announcement December 5. The Presiding Bishop informed Lawrence by phone, email and mail on December 5. Following that, the House of Bishops was notified.

According to the documents, Lawrence “is therefore removed from the Ordained Ministry of this Church and released from the obligations of all Ministerial offices, and is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority as a Minister of God’s Word and Sacraments conferred on him in Ordinations. This action is taken for causes that do not affect his moral character.”

The renunciation is effective immediately on December 5.

The renunciation was consented to by the members of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice, who are the presidents or vice presidents of the nine Provinces of the Episcopal Church: Bishops Stephen Lane of Maine (Province I), Lawrence Provenzano of Long Island (Province II), Neff Powell of Southwestern Virginia (Province III), Dabney Smith of Southwest Florida (Province IV); Wayne Smith of Missouri (Province V), Rob O’Neill of Colorado (Province VI), Larry Benfield of Arkansas (Province VII), James Mathes of San Diego (Province VIII) and Francisco Duque of Colombia (Province IX). Also members of the Council of Advice are Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas, vice president of the House of Bishops and Bishop Clay Matthews of the Office of Pastoral Development. Note: Bishop Dabney Smith was not present at the meeting because of illness…

The public address on 17 November referred to above is this one. Also available as a PDF here. The events surrounding this were previously reported here.

There is additional background material in the announcement linked above, and also on this page. An earlier letter from the Presiding Bishop is available here.

Bishop Lawrence has issued this letter: Bishop Lawrence Writes Regarding Renunciation.

The Presiding Bishop called me this afternoon to inform me that she and her council of advice have accepted my renunciation of ordained ministry. I listened quietly, asked a question or two and then told her it was good to hear her voice. I did not feel any need to argue or rebut. It is the Presiding Bishop’s crossing of the T and doting of the I—for their paper work, not my life. I could bring up the canonical problems with what they have done contrary to the canons of The Episcopal Church but to what avail? They will do what they will do regardless of canonical limitations. That is already well documented by others and hardly needs further documentation by me. She and her advisers will say I have said what I have not said in ways that I have not said them even while they cite words from my Bishop’s Address of November 17, 2012.

Quite simply I have not renounced my orders as a deacon, priest or bishop any more than I have abandoned the Church of Jesus Christ—But as I am sure you are aware, the Diocese of South Carolina has canonically and legally disassociated from The Episcopal Church. We took this action long before today’s attempt at renunciation of orders, therein making it superfluous…

There is a lot of useful background information on earlier comparable cases, and how they were dealt with, towards the end of this ENS news report.

A further statement from the diocese: Diocesan Statement Regarding Claimed Renunciation

…This action by the Presiding Bishop will come as no surprise to most, though it should be a disappointment to all. It has been done before. Just as the Episcopal Church has been increasingly characterized by ignoring the plain meaning of biblical texts, that same behavior has now come to characterize the application of their own governing canons as well. Those canons are quite explicit about the renunciation of ministry. It is to be a request, made in writing, to the Presiding Bishop, that the bishop in question wishes to be released from the ministry of the Episcopal Church. None of those qualifications have been complied with. Bishop Lawrence has never renounced his orders or expressed the desire to do so.

It is also clear in the canons that a release from ministry is not possible when another disciplinary process is in force. With the previous certification of abandonment by the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, it should not have been possible, without violating the canons, for there to be a declaration of the renunciation of ministry. As surely as these same interpretive habits have created theological chaos within the Episcopal Church, these latest actions are further evidence of increasing canonical chaos and a leadership that has slipped all restraints in pursuit of its agenda and goals. For those remaining within the Episcopal Church, these developments should be cause for serious concern. For the Diocese of South Carolina, which has already departed, they are viewed with a certain amazement, but also with gratitude that we have disassociated ourselves from the increasing dysfunction.


Archbishop's Advent letter to Anglican Primates

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has sent an Advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches.

The full text can be read either on the Lambeth Palace website, or on the Anglican Commmunion Office website.


Women Bishops: opinion

David Pocklington and Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK ask Are the laity revolting?

Rachel Weir the chair of WATCH has her own blog and yesterday she published her Advent Reflections.
She has also recently published these two guest contributions:
Rose Hudson-Wilkin writes: “Sitting in the gallery…”
Anne Stevens writes: “The Synod Vote on Women Bishops – a personal reflection”

For a different perspective read what Martin Dales, a Synod member from York, has to say: Church failed to respect its minority voices.


Women Bishops: WATCH calls for single clause measure

WATCH (Women and the Church) issued this press statement tonight.

WATCH (Women and the Church) PRESS STATEMENT
Monday 2nd December, 2012 – For immediate release

WATCH urges the House of Bishops to bring back a Single Clause Measure

Women clergy and supporters of their ministry have had enough of the wasteful wrangling over women bishops. Years have been spent in trying to make legal provision that would satisfy those opposed. The cost in human and financial terms has been enormous. Since 2000, there have been three major church reports, and the work of a legislative drafting group, revision committee and steering committee. General Synod has discussed the question at 10 of its meetings, and it has been debated at every level of the church. (Full details of the progress of the debate can be found here.)

The draft Measure represented the furthest possible compromise for those in favour. It was not enough for those opposed. After all these years of discussion, debate, and drafting it is clear that that there is no legal settlement that can be devised that will allow women to be bishops whilst satisfying the demands of those opposed. We therefore have to ask whether it is wise to allow the entire church to be held to ransom by minority factions who resist a change that the Church of England has discerned and declared to be entirely consistent with its understanding of the Christian faith. These same voices have spoken out repeatedly against any of the compromise proposed by the Church, and supported widely, including by WATCH.

Bishop John Gladwin said “What a small minority has done is blow up the bridge to any compromise solution. There is now only one route which must be travelled to that outcome. That is the route which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and ministry of the Church

It is now time to go for the simplest possible legislation – a single clause measure. This would enable people to vote for or against legislation simply enabling women to be bishops. Provision can be made at local level as appropriate for those who find this difficult. This option will maintain the greatest degree of unity and open dialogue between those of differing views and prevent ghettos forming within the Church. This is the way that every other Province in the Anglican Communion that has voted to ordain women as bishops has chosen to proceed.

It is also time for honesty in this debate. Those opposed do not want women bishops. They do not want resolution of the issue but to extend the decision-making process as long as possible. We cannot see how further conversation will result in any proposals that have not been tested and rejected before. They will simply prolong the process.

With the disproportionate number of conservatives in the House of Laity, the nature of the internal debate within the church has been so weighted to accommodating small minorities that we have lost sight of the legislation’s main objective – to make women bishops. We are now in a changed landscape. It is clear from the debates in Parliament and the response in the country at large that those outside the church are scandalised by the acceptance of gender discrimination in the established church. As Helen Goodman MP said in the emergency Commons debate on 22nd November,

too many concessions have been made to those who are opposed to women priests… It is simply unjust to do that at the expense of women in the Church.

For the sake of the future of the church we need to act swiftly and unequivocally to make women bishops without any discrimination in law. WATCH urges the House of Bishops to recommend a single clause measure be returned to Synod in July with the aim of getting Final Approval in a newly elected Synod.

In the meantime, it is imperative that women are present at the discussions of the House of Bishops in December and beyond. We call on the bishops to open their proceedings to the public and invite senior women to play a full part in their discussions. As Diana Johnson MP said in February 2012

It is inconceivable to anyone engaged in equality and diversity work in other contexts that the Church would make decisions about consecrating women as bishops without seriously engaging during this last phase with those who will be most directly affected by the decision.

The Reverend Rachel Weir, Chair of WATCH said

We have spent enough time in exploring how to accommodate the views of those who do not want women as bishops. Generosity is laudable but without limits it becomes a kind of profligacy. We are wasting the Church’s precious resources, both its money and its people if we seek to continue the debate about provision in law. The House of Bishops must act decisively now to legislate for women bishops in the simplest possible way.


Bishop of Ebbsfleet writes about the General Synod vote

The Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Baker, has written at length on his website about The General Synod vote on Women Bishops. The full text is reproduced below the fold.

Bishop Baker is to move to become the Bishop of Fulham early in 2013. Scroll down the link above for his announcement about the timing of that.



House of Laity meeting called

Jonathan Petre of the Mail Online is reporting today that sufficient signatures have been obtained to force a meeting of the House of Laity of the General Synod to discuss a vote of no confidence in its chair, Dr Philip Giddings: Synod ‘may oust chairman’ after defeat of legislation to allow women bishops.

The standing orders of the House of Laity state that in these circumstances the chair of the house shall convene the House, and give at least 21 days’ notice. I cannot see anything to specify the longest he can wait before calling the meeting, but I have heard that the meeting will probably be in January.

Although the Mail calls the meeting “secret”, meetings of the House of Laity are open to the press and public on the same terms as meetings of the General Synod. The House can vote to exclude the public, or the press and public, whilst it is sitting, but I see nothing to allow such a decision to be made in advance.


Bristol Diocesan Synod passes vote of no confidence in General Synod

Updated Saturday evening

Here is the motion passed today by the Diocese of Bristol:

In the light of the recent failure of the General Synod to pass the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) measure at its sessions of November 2012, despite overwhelming support for this legislation by this and other diocesan synods of the Church of England, Bristol Diocesan Synod:

1. Reaffirms our strong conviction that it is God’s will that women be ordained as bishops in the Church of England.

2. Has no confidence in the General Synod’s ability to transact the clear will of the majority of the Church with the urgency required to further the mission and witness of the Church.

3. Calls on the House of Bishops to explore, as a matter of great urgency, every possible avenue to effect the will of the Church on this issue.

Read more about the synod meeting: Diocesan Synod tells Bishops to effect the will of the Church, and read Bishop Mike Hill’s address to the synod over here (PDF).

This motion is by no means the strongest one that might have been passed. Paul Roberts has written about this in two blog articles:

The Bristol synod motion

…However, if other diocesan synods pass similar motions, where does that leave us? Essentially, the message given to Synod is, ‘we don’t think you lot are capable of passing satisfactory legislation and we’re upset about this.’ But, it doesn’t take any further action which would amend this situation. Essentially, this will not do anything other than register a protest.

The stronger, original version of the motion goes further – by expressing a total lack of confidence in the Synod to act as the present General Synod of the Church of England, it’s essentially saying it needs to go, and go as soon as possible. So why is this necessary? I think it’s so, for the following reasons…

And earlier in the week he had written: A possible way out of the Women Bishops bind.


opinion on the eve of Advent

Frank Cranmer at Law & Religion UK The House of Lords “doing God” – or, at any rate, debating religion

Simon Barrow for Ekklesia Disestablishment debate back in the spotlight

Doug Chaplin asks What would disestablishment mean?

James D Tabor writes for The Huffington Post about Christianity Before Paul.

David Pocklington at Law &Religion UK writes Of Vesture – I

Stephen Cherry compares Rowan and Justin.


women bishops: voting in diocesan synods

The detailed report on the reference to the dioceses of the now failed legislation is contained in GS 1847 available here in PDF format.

As has been widely reported, 42 of the 44 dioceses passed the legislation. The two dioceses where it failed were

Chichester: Bishops 0-2-0, Clergy 30-35-0, Laity 37-41-0 (failed in all three houses)

London: Bishops 2-1-0, Clergy 39-41-0, Laity 45-37-0 (failed only in the Clergy house)

Less widely reported are the aggregate voting figures for all dioceses:

Bishops: 75 for, 13 against, 4 abstentions
Clergy: 1503 for, 461 against, 50 abstentions
Laity: 1664 for, 489 against, 72 abstentions
Thus the proportions voting against the motion were: Bishops 15%, Clergy 23%, Laity 23%.
These contrast with General Synod proportions of 6%, 23%, and 36% respectively.

There were numerous following motions proposed and debated. GS 1847 summarised it thus:

  • Motions calling on the House of Bishops to amend the draft legislation in the way proposed by the Archbishops at the July 2010 group of sessions were carried in 6 dioceses and lost in 4 (in one case, as a result of a tied vote in the House of Laity). In five cases the motions passed called on the General Synod to debate a motion to that effect. Any motion which the General Synod has been called on to debate in that way constitutes a “diocesan synod motion‟ for the purposes of its Standing Orders.
  • Other motions calling on the House of Bishops to amend the legislation were carried in 5 dioceses (including one in which the diocesan synod motion was also carried) and lost in 27 (including one in which the diocesan synod motion was carried).
  • Of the two dioceses which voted against the legislation, one passed both of the above motions and one passed neither.
  • A motion calling for the General Synod to debate a motion inviting the House of Bishops not to amend the legislation was carried in 1 diocese.
  • Motions concerning the Code of Practice were carried in three dioceses (including one in which a motion calling for amendment of the legislation was also carried).

Thus, in aggregate a total of 11 motions calling for some kind of amendment passed, and a total of 31 motions failed. GS 1847 contains much fuller information on all of them.