Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops legislation

The General Synod revision committee on the legislation to enable women to be bishops has completed its work and their report is published today, together with a draft measure and canon. The report will be debated at the July meeting of General Synod.

Here is the official press release.

Stage set for key July debates on legislation to enable women to be bishops
8 May 2010

The Church of England has today published the 142-page report of the Revision Committee that has been considering in detail the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. Also published is an amended version of the draft, eleven clause Measure and associated draft Amending Canon.

The Committee has met on 16 occasions over the past 12 months and considered 114 submissions from members of the General Synod and a further 183 submissions from others. After much discussion the Committee rejected proposals aimed at fundamentally changing the approach of the legislation, whether by converting it into the simplest possible draft Measure or by creating more developed arrangements – whether through additional dioceses, a statutorily recognised society or some transfer of jurisdiction – for those unable to receive the ministry of female bishops.

As indicated to the General Synod in February 2010 (scroll to p6), the draft legislation continues to provide special arrangements for those with conscientious difficulties by way of delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory Code of Practice. The legislation has been amended in a number of detailed respects. Provision for statutory declarations by bishops unable to take part in the consecration of women as bishops or their ordination as priests has been removed as has an obligation on the Archbishops to nominate particular suffragan sees to be occupied by those who do not consecrate or ordain women.

Added to the Measure are new provisions requiring each diocesan bishop to draw up a scheme in his or her diocese that takes account of the national Code of Practice and provides local arrangements for the performance of certain episcopal functions in relation to parishes with conscientious difficulties. A further new provision allows such parishes to request, when there is a vacancy, that only a male incumbent or priest-in-charge be appointed.

It is expected that much of the July group of sessions of the General Synod in York (9-13 July) will be devoted to debating the Revision Committee’s report and conducting the Revision Stage of the legislation. This is the moment (equivalent to a parliamentary Report Stage) when all 470 members of the Synod have the opportunity to consider the draft legislation clause by clause and to vote on proposed amendments. Proposals rejected by the Revision Committee can be debated afresh at the Revision Stage.

Once the Revision Stage has been completed – and provided the Synod does not decide that further work is necessary in Revision Committee – the draft legislation will have to be referred to diocesan synods and cannot come back to the General Synod for final approval unless a majority of diocesan synods approve it.

The earliest that the legislation could achieve final approval in Synod (when two-thirds majorities in each of the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity will be required) is 2012, following which parliamentary approval and the Royal Assent would be needed. 2014 remains the earliest realistic date when the first women might be consecrated as bishops.

There are some notes attached to the press release, and these are copied below the fold.


The motion carried by the General Synod in July 2008 was:

‘That this Synod:

(a) affirm that the wish of its majority is for women to be admitted to the episcopate;

(b) 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;

© affirm that these should be contained in a statutory national code of practice to which all concerned would be required to have regard; and

(d) instruct the legislative drafting group, in consultation with the House of Bishops, to complete its work accordingly, including preparing the first draft of a code of practice, so that the Business Committee can include first consideration of the draft legislation in the agenda for the February 2009 group of sessions.’

The Legislative Drafting Group on Women in the Episcopate, chaired by the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, published in December 2008 its further report and drafts of a Measure and associated Amending Canon, together with an illustrative draft Code of Practice and an Explanatory Memorandum.

At its February 2009 group of sessions, the General Synod agreed that the draft legislation should be passed to a Revision Committee for detailed scrutiny. The Revision Committee comprised (ex officio) the members of the Steering Committee appointed from the Synod by the Appointments Committee of the Church of England in November 2008 to be in charge of the draft legislation throughout its Synodical stages, together with additional members newly appointed to constitute the majority of the membership of the Revision Committee and was chaired by the Venerable Clive Mansell, Archdeacon of Tonbridge.

The Revision Committee issued press releases on its discussions in October 2009 and in November 2009.


  • Pete Broadbent says:

    I hope people will take the trouble to read it – it does give an extensive commentary on how we got to where we are, and it sets out the arguments in relation to the legislation in great detail. For those who are opposed, conservative evangelical and traditionalist catholic, the rubicon is crossed at paragraph 148. The compromise solution, with a fully worked and coherent code of practice, is set out in great detail. It is, of course, only coherent for those who accept a code of practice. It will not satisfy traditionalists, nor will it satisfy those who believe that there should be no limitation at all on the ministry of women priests and bishops.

    The report is not definitive, however. Our transatlantic correspondents need to know that there is a Revision Stage in the Synod in July, when every clause of the draft legislation is open for possible revision.

  • David Malloch says:


    Is there really any chance that this is going to be ammended to give provision acceptable to catholics? Or do we need to start packing our bags, as many on this site would advocate???

  • Pat O'Neill says:

    This transatlantic correspondent simply doesn’t understand why, so many years after the CoE first ordained a woman, this is still an issue. Good heavens, can’t these “traditionalists” get over themselves? How long must something be done before it stops being an “innovation” and becomes “how we’ve always done things”?

  • Bill Carroll says:

    It’s amazing to me that to satisfy the concerns of “traditionalists,” the Church of England seems willing to make serious departures from Catholic order and subvert the monarchical episcopate. To hell with ecumenical councils, we’ll just do whatever it takes to appease the traditionalists.

    Women bishops are a natural evolution within Christian doctrine, once one removes certain heretical presuppositions from one’s theological anthropology and takes baptism seriously.

    By contrast, these pastoral provisions for alternative oversight without the consent of the diocesan bishop show a real lack of understanding of the apostolic succession. The Episcopal Church’s model of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight allows the diocesan to make provision without alienating his/her inherent pastoral authority as the successor to the apostles in a given diocese.

  • Pat – the ordination of women will never, simply as a matter of historical fact, be how Anglicans have always done things, unless what you mean is that open disrespect for Christian Tradition is how Anglicans have always done things, with which I might agree.

  • David Malloch says:


    Where exactly, in this revised legislation, do you find any suggestion whatsoever that the CofE is doing anything at all to satisfy traditionalists? Or have you responded to a report you haven’t actually read??

  • Pat O'Neill says:


    What I meant is that, in human terms, we eventually reach a point where a new thing ceases to be new, where it becomes “what we have always done” because the people who remember doing something different are with us no longer, or it becomes “what we have always done” because the thought that we once did something different seems so inherently silly.

  • Bill Carroll says:


    I’ve read it pretty closely. My objection is that the draft measure requires the (female) diocesan to have a male bishop to provide certain sacraments. This might be pastorally desirable, but it should be at the sole discretion of the diocesan. Anything less undermines the monarchical episcopate.

  • JCF says:

    “Women bishops are a natural evolution within Christian doctrine, once one removes certain heretical presuppositions from one’s theological anthropology and takes baptism seriously.”

    Hear, hear, BillC. Or instead of “natural evolution”, one could call it a “development of doctrine” (as I believe a Certain Soon-to-Be-Blessed Someone w/ impeccable RC cred once put it ;-/).

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “Is there really any chance that this is going to be ammended to give provision acceptable to catholics? Or do we need to start packing our bags, as many on this site would advocate???”

    Posted by: David Malloch on Saturday

    David, I think you need to understand that not all ‘catholics’ within the Anglican Communion think as you do about the inclusion of women among the people God calls to ministry in our Communion. I, for one, am perfectly accepting of women as Deacons, Priests and Bishops – if God is calling them into Holy Orders within the Church.

    For you to infer that all ‘catholics’ within the C.of E. or any other Anglican Province, are anti-women clergy is a fallacy, and the sooner you revise your theology on the complementarity of women and men within the Body of Christ, the sooner you will be able to understand that the Church needs to use the gifts and talents of women as well as men in the furtherance of the mission of Christ and the Gospel.

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Women ‘priests’ and women ‘bishops’ render Christian Unity impossible.In fact such measures
    destroy the tenents of Christianity.Our triune God
    consists of Father Son and Holy Spirit.The Church is the Bride of Christ and the priest stands at the altar in persona Christi.
    A woman standing at the altar is a pagan priestess with no Apostolic authority since St.Paul clearly insisted on a male priesthood in full proclamation of Jesus Christ’s mandate to His male Apostles.
    The ‘ordination’ of women is not only against scripture it is a threat to the English throne since no Christian monarch could in truth partake in such greiviously corrupt ministry.England is the dowry of Mary, Christian Unity is to be strived for since it is God’s will.By ‘ordaining’ women England’s Christian roots have been compromised.
    The English throne today is further threatened by atheistic politicians.We are at war with secularists.May God protect Queen Elizabeth!

  • Pat O'Neill says:


    So, it’s OK that the “supreme head of the Church” be female, but not that the bishops and priests who serve under her should be? I’m sorry, but that makes absolutely no sense at all.

    Yes, the priest stands in persona Christi. But as Paul also insisted, “in Christ there is no male or female….” And if the Church can be the bride of Christ, why cannot it also not be the groom of Christ? It’s all a metaphor, anyway.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “England is the dowry of Mary” – Alba Thorning –

    Dear Alba (presumably the feminine of Albion?),
    Your defence of patriarchy in the Church is rather dated, if not a denial of the priestly act of Mary in ‘bringing forth’ The Christ – remembering that the primary task of a priest is to ‘bring forth’ the presence of Christ at the altar. How many times must traditionalists – who deny the equal place of women with men as ‘children of God’ – be reminded of Our blessed Lord’s special attention towards the needs and well-being of women in his earthly ministry. In fact, his very first post-Resurrection act of apostolic sending out (commissioning – apostello: “I send”) was of Mary Magdalene (a woman), to bring the Good News of Christ’s Resurrection to the (male) disciples. According to the Gospels, they didn’t believe her! So, what’s changed? What has changed is that the Anglican Churches around the world (or parts of it) have recognised the call of God upon women in the Church to become deacons, priests, and bishops. This is a reality in certain Provinces of the Anglican Communion, and the Church of England must surely follow.

    The fact that Rome is lagging behind in this understanding – of women as bearers of the image and likeness of God in common with men – is part of the reason why she is experiencing a dearth of (male) priestly vocations in the U.K. If only the ministry of women – as Sacramental Ministers – could be recognised for what it really is; a substitute for the priestly ministry that simply isn’t there, and ordain these faithful Religious and Lay Women, then who knows what God may bring forth in terms of fruitfulness in mission?

  • Chris Smith says:

    Well said Father Ron! Misogyny runs deep in all branches of Catholicism, be it the Latin Rite or the many other “branches” of Catholicism as well as Greek and Russian Orthodox, Baptist Protestantism and Anglicanism. About two thousand years of it for Catholics. Reasonable people are finally standing up and saying “enough of this hatred”. It is also a justice issue that women share in all leadership roles in the Church, be it deacon, priest or bishop. The theology for ordaining women is sound and healthy on all levels. Those who argue that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women are unable to support their arguments well and sound either ignorant or in many cases misogynistic. They promote fear and in some cases hatred in order to drive home their points. In Roman Catholicism, the process of implosion over this issue has already begun. Women should have been ordained as a part of Vatican II reforms. The imperial hierarchical system of Rome is becoming despised by millions of Catholics as cries for women to be ordained deacon, priest and bishop grow louder every day. Radical reform of the Papacy and calls for a Vatican III are also growing louder. Catholics want a return to primitive church practices where lay people and clergy elect their own local bishops. The Pope should NEVER have been
    handed this power. It has been abused time and again. Rome is imploding over their failure to grasp the sound theology behind ordaining women. In this regard, we have the American Episcopal Church to thank for leading the way on this important issue. Fr. Ron Smith offers some wonderful insights here and as a Vatican II Catholic I have learned so much from his and the many other Anglican posts over the past year. Anglicans inspire us. Continue to lead, eventually Rome too, will follow your light!

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Dear Father Ron,
    I give thanks to God for my dated theology since
    it has stood the test of time, and the Church will never ordain women.God gave Mary the highest place when she agreed to give birth to Christ that He might share in our humanity that we might share in His divinty.The Church has many female saints some spiritual mothers and those whose maternity has procured their sainthood.
    Women who wish to ape men have lost their sense of awe and pride in their maternal value as exemplified by The Virgin Mary, our ideal model.
    The Mass which traditional Anglicans value as much as Roman Catholics is the gift, developed by The Holy Spirit, as a celebration of our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.Only a man can celebrate in persona Christi.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “The Mass which traditional Anglicans value as much as Roman Catholics is the gift, developed by The Holy Spirit, as a celebration of our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.Only a man can celebrate in persona Christi.”
    – Alba Thorning –

    Thank you, Alba for responding to my challenge. However, I do need to point out that Jesus was male for the precise reason that, in his day and age, only males were allowed authority in the religious establishment. And Jesus had to be one or the other. The theological reality, though, is that Christ represents all humanity – female as well as male – and this is what prompted the great Apostle Paul to declare that “In Christ, there is neither male nor female, but all are baptized by the one Holy spirit: into what? – the Body of Christ, of course, which is not defined by human biological standards, but by the divinely full humanity of the Second Person of The Holy Trinity.

    So any argument that depends on the biological masculinity of Jesus for his relationship to ALL humanity is necessarily defective. It has taken a long time for theologians to realize this. But don’t forget, Alba, that the Holy Spirit’s Wisdom did not disappear with the Ascension of Christ, but has continued throughout the ages of the Church, bringing New Light and Life to all who seek the Truth of the Gospel. It didn’t take Paul too long to discover this truth about the simple complementarity of male and female in the Gospel; but it certainly has taken the Church – especially the Roman Catholic Church, which has still not seemingly discovered it – that The Divine Image and Likeness exists in ALL human beings, no matter what their sexual differences. All are children of the One True God, and therefore capable of being called by God into whatever ministry God chooses to call them. (Tell me, Alba, are priests, as well as nuns, not a part of the ‘Bride of Christ’?)

    Women in Jesus’ day could not have been called into Church leadership – simply because of the culture of patriarchalism, which existed then, and still, unfortunately, exists in parts of today’s Church. Jesus did his part in trying to break down that culture which subjugated women. I’m sure that Mary, The Mother of God, would not be averse to this revised theological understanding if she were here today. Ave Maria, Gratia Plena!

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Father Ron thank you for your reply.With humility I beg to point out that The Holy Trinity consists
    in a Triune God.Our redemption came about through
    God assuming our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. God the Son took flesh by being born of a woman ,Mary ,through the power of The Holy Spirit.

    St Paul correctly states that in Christ there is neither male nor female.We are all wonderfully created with a soul ,anima, a feminine soul which is perfect for an espousal with a male God.
    Hence priests as all men and women of faith form the ‘Bride of Christ’,the Church.

    We must not forget that Christ’s death on the cross redeemed humanity of all time for all time in that one sacrifice.The Mass is a vital inactment of our redemption.The priest at the altar respects Christ’s request to his apostles ” Do this in memory of Me” A woman at the altar is pure blasphemy and makes a complete nonsense of
    our faith.

    The Church has always honoured women. Ask any priest of his relationship with a Reverend Mother
    and you will find how happy he was to submit to her guidance.Deo Gratias!

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Alba, your theology is entirely heretical insofar as it presumes that the Incarnate Jesus only assumed maculinity. That which is not assumed is not redeemed.

    Your argument can only lead to one of two heretical conclusions (or possibly an heretical melange of both):

    1. That women are not redeemed.

    2. That those who act in alter Christus must be, not only male, but circumcised, ethnically Jewish and cetera.

    Either of these, on their own, is manifestly heretical. Taken together, they are positively blasphemous.

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Father Ron thank you for permitting me to have had this stimulating dialogue with you.
    Malcolm needs to be reassured that Christ did in fact become man and the need for his birth was to accomplish the redemption of mankind.He died once, and for all.
    Priests in the Church in which Christ appointed
    Peter as head do not need to have been circumcised or of any particular ethnic
    Father Ron, in our quest for clarifiction of our wonderful faith it is good to remember the words of St Augustine:
    ‘In necessaris unitas
    In dubiis libertas
    In omnibus caritas.’

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Alba, you have rather missed the point. If it was only male humanity which Our Lord assumed at His Incarnation, then female humanity is not redeemed. While their are coherent arguments against the ordination of women (as much as I disagree with them), the argument from Jesus sex is not one such.

    To argue that women cannot be ordained because Jesus was male is, in essence, to argue that women are not redeemed because Jesus was male.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    Dear, dear Alba. Malcolm is probably right about the fact of your danger of entering into heresy with your so-obviously R.C.-magisterium-doctrinal beliefs here expressed. However, be pacified with the realisation that all of us are probably guilty of a little bit of heresy at some time in our spiritual journey.

    The fact that I prefer my version of what may be considered ‘heresy’ to yours, is only a matter of degree. In God’s good time, all heresies will be exposed – some sooner than others. I do believe, however that the mistaken idea of patriarchalism in the Church is already on its way to extinction – thanks to a bit of good old-fashioned (while yet modern) biblical scholarship tied in with human biology, psychiatry and scientific observation – not to mention post- Galilean theology and philosophy – which have all contributed to our modern understanding of what Paul really meant when he said “In Christ, there is neither male nor female..”

    I am still reminded of the old charistmatic chorus, sung alike by priests and nuns, after the Pauline truism: “It’s no longer I who liveth, but Christ who liveth in me. He lives, he lives, Jesus is alive in me.”.. etc.

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Malcom,I beg to point out that Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a man can stand in persona Christi at the altar. After all Christ’s mission was to prove His love for humanity by dying on the cross, to redeem us, and preserve us from eternal damnation.
    God so loved us all that He died to redeem us.He gave us through the power of The Holy Spirit, the Church and the Sacraments.We have so much cause
    celebrate our wonderful faith,don’t you agree?

    Father Ron, Christ knew of human frailty and yet He chose Peter and handed him the keys to heaven.
    The New Testament on which our Christian faith is founded is founded on historical facts.From Peter the line of patriarchs can be traced.The Church has had her share of failures but it is in our day
    with the issue of the ‘ordination’ of women that so many are making utter nonsense of the Christian faith.May God have mercy on us all.

  • Father Ron Smith says:

    “Malcom,I beg to point out that Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a man can stand in persona Christi at the altar” – Alba, on Friday –

    So, Alba, you have reduced the God-Head to being a mere male! Now you have lost me – and, I suspect any other ‘Thinking’ Anglican on this site.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Alba, try this:

    ‘Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a Jew can stand in persona Christi at the altar.’

    Or this:

    ‘Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a virgin can stand in persona Christi at the altar.’

    Or how about this:

    ‘Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a person under 33 years of age can stand in persona Christi at the altar.’

    Sorry Alba. The mystery of the incarnation very clearly teaches us that Our Lord assumed humanity, not merely the particular characteristics of a specific human person. If Jesus only assumed human maleness (as you are so consistently arguing), then women are not redeemed. That is unequivocally heretical.

    As to your apparent assertion of the “maleness” of the Father, I refer you to Article I which asserts that God has not “body, parts nor passions.” One of the parts God the Father does not have is a penis.

  • Alba Thorning says:

    Dear Father Ron and Malcolm
    Father Ron .Yes The God-head
    in the person of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did humble Himself to take on our humanity
    but His divinity was never relinquished. God became MAN.

    Malcolm . I could encourage your distorted arguements but I fear for the spiritual health of the public that they confuse.Either you believe that God was made Man in the Person of Jesus Christ or admit that you are not a Christian.
    I will keep you in my prayers, but forgive me if I no longer reply to you.

  • Erika Baker says:

    “Malcom,I beg to point out that Christ in his own words told us “I and the Father are one.” Which really should clarify that only a man can stand in persona Christi at the altar”

    There you are, ladies, if God had wanted to include us in, he’d have been incarnated as boy and girl twins.

  • Malcolm+ says:

    Perhaps, Alba, your heresy is rooted in your limited grasp of Greek.

    Now, despite having done poorly in Greek, I know that the Church and the Creeds teach that God was made “anthropos” (human) in the Person of Jesus Christ. That Jesus was “andros” (a man) was merely a function of the fact that he needed to be one of the two sexes in order to be fully human.

    Athanasius was very clear to teach that which is not assumed is not redeemed. In becoming “anthropos”, Jesus assumes all of humanity, male and female. If Jesus assumes only maleness, then women are not redeemed.

    We should all pray for your spiritual health, Alba, and for your conversion to orthodox Christianity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *