Updated again Saturday evening
The Church of England issued the press release below this morning.
The essential parts are the third and fourth paragraphs.
Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate
14 November 2009
The Revision Committee met for its third scheduled meeting yesterday (13 November) since 8 October (see earlier statement). It concluded a substantial exploration of ways in which the draft legislation could be amended to enable certain functions to be vested by statute in bishops who would provide oversight for those unable to receive the episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.
After much discussion, the members of the Committee were unable to identify a basis for specifying particular functions for vesting which commanded sufficient support both from those in favour of the ordination of women as bishops and those unable to support that development. As a result all of the proposals for vesting particular functions by statute were defeated.
The effect of the Committee’s decision is therefore that such arrangements as are made for those unable to receive the episcopal ministry of women will need to be by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop rather than vesting.
There remain important issues for the Committee to determine at its forthcoming meetings over the shape of the proposed legislation in the light of this decision, in particular whether to retain a statutory code of practice or adopt the simplest possible legislation.
The work of a Revision Committee in scrutinising draft legislation, and in considering submissions to amend it, is only part of a longer legislative process. The Revision Committee on this draft legislation will report to the full General Synod at the conclusion of its work and the Synod will debate its proposals and have its own opportunity to support, amend or invite further reconsideration of the legislation by the Revision Committee. Further stages in the legislative process would require consideration of any legislation by the Diocesan Synods of the Church of England, final approval by the General Synod, Parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent.
Bishop David Thomson has published some very interesting additional material, see here. A copy of it is also here, below the fold.
WATCH has already published a press release.
WATCH PRESS STATEMENT
Saturday, 14th November 2009 – for immediate release
WOMEN BISHOPS LEGISLATION NOW ON RIGHT TRACK
WATCH is delighted to hear that the Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate has decided that legislation for women bishops will no longer include proposals for the mandatory transfer of authority – the vesting of particular functions by law – in bishops who would provide oversight for those unable to receive the Episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.
WATCH commends the recent work of the Revision Committee, which met yesterday to explore how the previous proposed arrangements could be made to work. WATCH is aware of the huge outcry from members of General Synod and from other Church members to the earlier announcement of the Revision Committee to make changes in law that would have resulted in a two-tier episcopate.
WATCH Chair, Christina Rees said: “This is a real breakthrough. I am delighted that now we can look forward to having women as bishops on the same terms that men are bishops. Women will bring valuable different perspectives and ways of doing things and will also bring a sorely needed wholeness to the Episcopal leadership of our Church. The House of Bishops will cease to be the ‘men only’ club it has been and will be more representative of the people whom the Church exists to serve. Now the Church will be able to draw on the experience and wisdom of many gifted women. We know from 15 years of having women as priests that they are often able to reach people and approach situations in ways that are creative and empowering for many others.”
WATCH is pleased with the outcome on two counts: first, and most importantly, the new proposals express the theological understanding of the Church about the status of baptised Christians and about the relationship between men and women and God. Secondly, the Revision Committee has shown that it has heeded the will of General Synod to draft legislation that would not have arrangements in law that would differentiate between male and female bishops.
WATCH continues to urge to Revision Committee to bring proposals to General Synod in February 2010 which adopt the simplest possible legislation, so that the Church of England can proceed to opening the Episcopate to women in such a way that the nature of the Episcopate is retained and the Church can best communicate its belief that women and men are equal in the eyes of God.
Ed Tomlinson has blogged about this, see Church of England’s response is forming….
Bishop Alan Wilson has written, Revision Committee: Tough Salami.
Jonathan Wynne-Jones writes for the Sunday Telegraph about a Snub to traditionalists over women bishops.
Questions and Answers for Comms. Office use
What does this mean?
It means that the Committee could not identify which functions or powers they thought should be given by law to the bishops who would give oversight to traditionalist parishes, so the idea essentially falls. They now have to decide whether to return to the idea of a statutory code of practice or to adopt a solution that would set out no provision in the legislation itself for those who object to women bishops. But whatever this Committee decides, it remains for the full Synod to debate the matter fully.
What’s the difference between delegation and vesting?
Delegation means that functions would be exercised on the authority of the diocesan bishop, who in future may be female. Vesting would have meant certain functions being exercised as of right by those bishops providing oversight for traditionalist parishes.
What do you mean by ‘functions’?
Functions in this context mean episcopal activities such as conducting the ordination of priests, and providing pastoral oversight of parish clergy.
Is this the result of the Pope/the Westminster Hall debate/anger from women?
The 19 members of the Committee spent a lot of time exploring possibilities in some detail and were unable to find a basis for vesting which commanded sufficient support. What influenced individuals to vote as they did on particular proposals can only be a matter of speculation.
Why issue statements when the decisions keep changing?
Synod members coming to speak to amendments that they have submitted have the right to know when there has been a major change affecting their proposals. Since such decisions will quickly become widely known the Committee concluded that it was best to put the facts on the public record.
How did people vote?
The voting figures will be included in the Committee’s report to Synod.
Will the report be ready for the February Synod?
That has always been the Committee’s aim, but the timetable is now extremely tight. The Committee has three further meetings scheduled between now and early January.
Isn’t this decision simply going to push many Catholic Anglicans to go to Rome?
There are many further stages yet in the legislative process (see 8 October statement) and nothing is certain until the draft Measure has secured a two thirds majority in each House of Synod on final approval and then secured parliamentary approval and Royal Assent. It will be at least 2012 before the Synod has concluded its own consideration.