press release from Women and the Church (WATCH)
Women Bishops Legislation
Overwhelming support for the draft Measure:
“Follow on Motions” confirm the Dioceses’ desire for draft legislation to be passed unamended by General Synod in July
General Synod has just consulted the dioceses on new legislation (a Measure and amending Canon) which would allow women to become bishops for the first time in the Church of England. This legislation outlined a scheme of delegation so that people who could not accept the ministry of a female bishop would have alternative provision – any parish can request a male priest or the oversight of a male bishop.
Such a scheme is a major compromise for many who are in favour of consecrating women as bishops and has been supported by many of them as a way of keeping the Church together.
Overwhelming support for the draft Measure
Of the 44 Dioceses which considered this, 42 voted for it and just two against with the overall majority of votes exceeding three-quarters. Overall 85% bishops, 76% clergy and 77% laity have said ‘yes’.
This is significantly better than the Diocesan voting in 1992 for the legislation allowing women to become priests, and is well clear of the two thirds majority required in General Synod for the legislation to pass.
‘Follow On Motions’
Alongside the main legislation 42 of the 44 Dioceses considered motions which would request consideration of additional provision for those opposed to the ministry of women as bishops.
9 of the 42 Dioceses passed such motions, while 33 did not. The two dioceses where this was not tested were amongst the strongest in favour of the main legislation with majorities of over 90% in favour.
Fewer than 25% of the dioceses therefore made requests for further provision, and even if the figure of a quarter advanced by some commentators were true, it would be below the one third figure which would be required to block the legislation in General Synod.
The failure to meet even that one third threshhold (let alone a majority) is also indicated by the overall voting figures on the motions for alternative provision.
The overall picture is clear. The Measure and Amending Canon on which General Synod consulted the dioceses were supported in the vast majority of dioceses with large majorities.
The case for an alternative approach was extensively tested, and fell well short of a majority, passing in just 9 Dioceses out of 44.
The case for changing the legislation has been put, considered, and lost in the Dioceses. The current legislation with its clear scheme of provision by delegation should be taken forward and passed so that we can, at last, have women as bishops in our Church.
Hilary Cotton, Head of Campaign said,
“The clear message from the Dioceses is: this is the right way forward. It would be very puzzling for the House of Bishops to amend the legislation in the face of such overwhelming endorsement from the Church at large. It would also seem dismissive of the ordinary Church of England membership if General Synod members chose to vote against such large majority opinion next July”.