WATCH PRESS STATEMENT
Friday, 30th October 2009 – for immediate release
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: STOP THIS CHARADE!
WATCH has a message for the Revision Committee as it meets on Tuesday to continue its task of preparing draft legislation to bring to General Synod in February: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
WATCH has received an unprecedented number of emails from normally quiet and patient members of the Church of England. They have expressed their disbelief at the Revision Committee’s announcement earlier this month that it has decided to prepare legislation for an option the General Synod has already rejected!
Instead of doing what General Synod asked of them, namely drafting simple legislation for women to be allowed to be bishops, with arrangements for those who remain opposed to women’s ordinations to be contained in a statutory Code of Practice, the Revision Committee decided to “provide for certain functions to be vested in Bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice”.
This would result in a two-tier Episcopate, with every female bishop, and potentially all male bishops who ordain or consecrate women, having their authority diverted on request to another male bishop acceptable to those opposed to women bishops. A senior clergywoman and General Synod member has written of her dismay at the proposals, making the point that for those who want to stay in the Church of England, in spite of their difficulty with women’s ordination, it is precisely this Church they love, not the damaged and divided one that would result from the proposed arrangements. She says, “We can and will make it possible for them to stay…not through rules but through Christian care.”
The Revision Committee’s decision has produced widespread shock among Church members, not to mention disbelief and derision from wider society. People are confused about the role of the Established Church, which exists to serve all in the land and which is supposed to give Christian leadership on matters of ethics and justice. For the Church to be equivocating on the ability or desirability of women to hold positions of leadership is to send out a damaging message about all women, and one which is at odds with the Church’s understanding of humanity.
A clergy woman writes: “How am I supposed to try to explain this sort of mess to my parishioners? It’s acutely embarrassing. I want to grow the Church, not bring it into disrepute.”
A lay member writes: “I am really shocked at the inhumanity of this latest backward step.”
Another writes: “I am appalled at this dreadful idea which is unspeakable in its implications of the second-class nature of women in general. “
Other messages include comments like “unacceptable” “idiocy” “highly insulting” “tragic” with one clergywoman describing the revision process as a “charade.”
WATCH is asking the Revision Committee to think again and bring the legislation it was asked to bring to the next Synod.
Christina Rees, WATCH Chair said the outcry was unprecedented. “I have never before witnessed such outrage and anger. Most people in our Church do not want to distinguish in law between male and female bishops. People are interested in bishops, whether male or female, who have a heart for the priests and people in their dioceses. They do not want to see the historic Episcopate of the Church of England destroyed in order to appease less than 2% of clergy who do not believe women should be ordained. In the light of the overwhelming will of the Church, tested repeatedly, the Revision Committee needs to think again and prepare the legislation that General Synod has asked for – without any further delay.”
Christina Rees Tel: 01763-848-822 Email: Christina@MediaMaxima.com
Revd Dr Miranda Thelfall-Holmes Tel: 07981–459-479
Sally Barnes Tel: 020–8731–9860 or 07759–343-335
Timeline on women’s ordination in the Church of England
1975 General Synod (GS) agrees there are ‘no fundamental objections’ to ordaining women to the priesthood
1978 GS debates ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops and wins overall majority but vote is taken by Houses and it falls in House of Clergy
1986 GS votes for women to be allowed to be deacons – the first of the three historic orders
1987 First female deacons ordained
1992 GS votes for women to be allowed to be priests
1994 1,500 female deacons ordained as priests
2000 GS asks House of Bishops to “initiate further theological study on the episcopate, focussing on the issues that need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the episcopate in the Church of England” (Rochester Commission – House of Bishops’ Working Party on Women in the Episcopate established.)
2004 Publication of Rochester Commission Report
2005 GS (Feb) debates Rochester Commission Report
2005 GS (July) votes to start process of removing legal obstacles to having women as bishops (The Bishops of Guildford and Gloucester are asked to start the process)
2006 (Jan) Guildford and Gloucester Report published
2006 GS (July) agrees that having women as bishops is ‘consonant with the faith of the Church’. Legislative drafting group set up to prepare the draft measure and amending canon necessary to remove the legal obstacles to the consecration of women as bishops
2007 (no consideration in GS)
2008 GS (July) Report of Legislative Group debated and sent back to be completed. GS votes to “affirm its view that special arrangements be available, within the existing structures of the Church of England, for those who as a matter of theological conviction will not be able to receive the ministry of women as bishops or priests” and “affirm that these should be contained in a national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard.” GS asks the Revision Committee to prepare the draft measure and code of practice.
2009 GS (Feb) Legislative Drafting Group final report considered and the legal provisions sent for revision in committee
2009 Revision Committee (8th October) decides to reject arrangements in a Code of Practice and to prepare legislation with statutory provision.