Thinking Anglicans

Women bishops legislation: WATCH Statement of Concerns

The National WATCH Committee has released a paper setting out its position on the House of Bishops’ amendments to the draft legislation on female bishops: A Statement of our Concerns.

The paper is quite long, but here are the conclusions (from page 7).

WATCH’s conclusions

The bishops have argued that they have not changed the substance or intention of the Measure, and hope that when looked at dispassionately and carefully everyone will agree with them.

Our conclusions, after consultation and careful and dispassionate consideration, are these:

1. The House of Bishops has made changes that are significant in how the draft legislation might work in practice. In so doing, it has de-stabilised the legislative process: there is no clear way forward towards July’s General Synod.

2. The amended draft legislation comes to General Synod for approval this July. It is not possible for Synod to amend the legislation further at this stage – though it could be referred back to the House of Bishops for reconsideration.

3. WATCH consistently supported the unamended Measure that was supported by 42/44 dioceses, as an act of generosity to those opposed and a compromise from our preferred route of the simplest possible legislation.

4. The bishops were repeatedly informed by those supporting the Measure that any amendment along these lines would put the Measure at greatly increased risk of defeat in July. They are now expressing surprise at our reaction. We wonder what it is that stops the House of Bishops hearing and taking seriously the voices of ordained women and all who support their ministry.

5. Our principal concerns about Clause 5(1)c are:
i) It legitimates negative theologies about women and expects women to live with permanent institutional uncertainty about their orders. This is bad for women and bad for the Church.
ii) It opens the way for parishes to require a bishop and priest in accordance with their theological convictions. This is a new and unwelcome departure for our Church that will lead to conflict and increasing fragmentation.

6. The amendment to clause 5 means that the legislation no longer meets the objective of the Manchester Report (2008) that legislation should ‘avoid any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness by the Church towards women priests and bishops.’

7. WATCH has grave concerns about the amendment to Clause 5 and the WATCH committee cannot support the Measure as it now stands. However, it will fall to General Synod members, to make up their own minds and decide whether, in good conscience, they can support the legislation as amended.

8. Our consultation suggests that the amended Measure is at grave risk of being voted down by the very Synod members who most strongly support women becoming bishops. It is a tragedy that after so much work and so much compromise, this should be the situation a month before the final vote.

9. Despite our disappointment, WATCH remains committed to working constructively with others to find a way forward that does not further institutionalise discrimination and create a Church divided in law.

National WATCH Committee
11 June 2012

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Revd Rosie BatesFather Ron SmithFather DavidSimon KershawLapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer Recent comment authors
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karen macqueen+
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karen macqueen+

“4. The bishops were repeatedly informed by those supporting the Measure that any amendment along these lines would put the Measure at greatly increased risk of defeat in July. They are now expressing surprise at our reaction. We wonder what it is that stops the House of Bishops hearing and taking seriously the voices of ordained women and all who support their ministry.” The mentality of the House of Bishops in imagining that they know better than everyone else was evident in the Covenant fiasco and is evident once again. This time, the failure of the bishops to listen and… Read more »

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

I am very glad to read what WATCH have said, particularly that they cannot support the legislation as it now stands. What they say is so true. We have compromised enough- in fact, too much. And receive no thanks or appreciation for it. Forward in Faith,REFORM, the Church Union, and so on, just take and take, and seem too troubled in their cul de sac to meet others half-way -or even notice we are here ! I know from decades of anglo-catholicism ! Stop ordaining women NOW ! and just forget it – or get on and ordain ministers to… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

What a quandary we find ourselves in after years of discussion on this contentious issue.
The “Group of Six” were of the opinion that the House of Bishops amendements did not significantly alter the Measure but merely fine tuned it.
WATCH in its considered response, following consultation with its members, is of the opinion that the Measure has been radically altered.
Who are we to believe and where are you to look for guidance to remove ourselves from this mire of our own making?

Benedict
Guest
Benedict

WATCH’S so called dispassionate report is both offensive and misguided. It has characterised opponents of women bishops, by implication, as contributing to domestic and sexual abuse in the home. Such a claim is staggering in the enormity of the accusation it levels at both women and men who, in all conscience, and because of perfectly valid and accepted theological positions, are unable to accept the innovation of women in the episcopate. WATCH is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel in seeking to respond to the recent amendments. Disgraceful.

Pam Smith
Guest

As I understood it, WATCH wrote to the House of Bishops before they discussed the legislation and warned them that they might not be able to support any further amendment. They didn’t leap to judgement afterwards but consulted widely to see what their members believed what the right way forward was. WATCH is just an organisation representing its members, it has every right to react on their behalf. I would imagine a far greater danger to the amended legislation is the reaction of all those in the Dioceses who have taken the time and trouble to debate the issue and… Read more »

Dan BD
Guest

My question is this: can we not pass this rubbish now then just sort of clear up later?

Mark
Guest
Mark

Karen MacQueen: “Bishops in the CofE are known as some of the best educated bishops in the world. And, yet, they display this strange deafness to the needs of people long oppressed by the Church.” Quite so. The C of E is very poor when it comes to justice issues. I think this is because we have been in bed with power for so long that we have lost the ability to see things from any other viewpoint. One even hears church leaders saying, of the issues of equality for women or gay people in the Church “it is a… Read more »

Pluralist
Guest

I see a constitutional crisis coming to the C of E. First there was the Covenant, to be pushed through on the backs of gay people. That now cannot come back, but there are people looking for the wriggle room of reintroduction. Now there are the amendments, being pushed through on the backs of women. In both cases it is the legacy of the disaster that has been Rowan Williams, and of the bishops out of touch. The legislation for women bishops has the ‘pro’ camp in confusion, and therefore likely to fail. The pro camp is now a very… Read more »

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

Passing this rubbish now and sorting it out later is where flying bishops came in, Dan. “A stitch in time ……”

Liionel Deimel
Guest

Alas, WATCH has read the situation correctly. Its only error was compromising in the first place. The proper declaration by the church is simply: “Women can be bishops and archbishop, and, where masculine words are used in the canons respecting ordination and clergy rights and responsibilities, those words should be interpreted as referring to men or women.” It is perfectly acceptable for members of the clergy to hold to a theology that does not admit of women priests or bishops. It is unacceptable for the church to fracture into parallel churches to accommodate such a medieval theology, however. General Synod… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Dan BD:

No that’s the problem – because these alleged small tweaks are in the legislation they will become the law of the land and will be hard to remove. That is why many Synod members like me are perplexed – we want to vote for women bishops but fear that this legislation will actually make things worse for gender equality not better. One senior woman priest said to me we should vote this through and get a few women into the HofB and then change it – but we cannot do that quite so easily.

Peter Sherlock
Guest
Peter Sherlock

Point two above mentions the possibility that General Synod could refer the legislation back to the House of Bishops. Could someone explain how this would work, what the timeline would be, and whether it would be possible for the Synod to ask the House of Bishops to ‘unamend’ the legislation? If this is possible, it seems to be far preferable to a defeat of the legislation in July and a delay of another five-six years.

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Lionel Deimel: “General Synod has no choice but to vote down the legislation for women bishops.” As we have said before, the Synod can vote, by simple majority, to ask the HoB to reconsider its amendments. That presumably need not be a long delay — it only needs to be long enough to get the Bishops in another room and vote again. Of course, it’s quite possible, even perhaps likely, that the HoB would send the draft Measure back to the Synod in the same form. I suppose it partly depends on the strength of views expressed in the adjournment… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

It seems to me that, unless the original Draft Measure is allowed to be re-presented by the House of Bishops, the only winners in this sad dispute will be the ‘Forward in Faith’ minority.

If the amended Measure is passed, F.i.F. will be protected from contamination by a female Diocesan.

If the amended Measure fails, there won’t be any female bishops anyway. F.I.F cannot lose if this amended process is retained for G.S. in July.

Mark Bennet
Guest
Mark Bennet

It might be worth quoting Standing Order 94, which makes the reference back to the House of Bishops possible. Under Standing Order 36, such a referral would be decided by a simple majority of the whole Synod, and it would not be possible to have a vote by houses: 94. Final Approval Stage – Reconsideration by the House of Bishops (a) After a motion for Final Approval has been moved any member of the House of Bishops or a member of the Steering Committee in charge of the Measure or Canon or other Article 7 or Article 8 business, by… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

“it only needs to be long enough to get the Bishops in another room and vote again”. Surely, that would be a panic response to the crisis created by the notorious two amendments. Besides – not all members of the House of Bishops are also members of the General Synod and are unlikely to be present in York next month if the General Synod, by majority vote, requests the House of Bishops to reconsider its amendments. Legislation in response to a panic attack is never a good idea. I am sure that their Lordships would require more time to ponder,… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

“not all members of the House of Bishops are also members of the General Synod”
Er, yes, the HoB is the HoB. There isn’t a different HoB for the General Synod.

Father David
Guest
Father David

Simon – all diocesan bishops are members of the General Synod’s House of Bishops but are you sure that all Suffragan bishops and PEVs are also members of that body? I presume that the two amendments were passed in a meeting of all bishops – including every suffragan and PEV before passing the amended Motion back for discussion and debate at the York meeting of the General Synod. Or am I mistaken in this assumption and we already have first and second class bishops -not only in the sense of diocesans and suffragans – but those who are on the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

The HoB consists of all diocesan bishops plus the Bishop Suffragan of Dover, plus seven representative suffragans elected by the northern and southern suffragans — 3 and 4 respectively. In addition the PEVs may attend but have no vote (unless they are elected representative suffragans, which Beverley is).

All diocesan and suffragan bishops do meet, and they style this grouping the “College of Bishops”.

http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/about-general-synod/house-of-bishops.aspx

General Synod standing orders give the right to determine the final form of a Measure to the HoB, not to all the bishops.

David Turner
Guest
David Turner

What the Bishops have done is unconstitutional and against natural justice. One understands the motivation to offer the hand of goodwill towards those who did not support the measure, but it is the PERMANENCE of such an offer that sticks in the craw. If they had suggested a three-year transition period with a role for traditionalist Bishops, that might have been (very reluctantly) acceptable, might it not? I had thought previously that the Flying Bishops measure was quite a noble gesture, to allow the trads to come to the table in their own time, but what did they do? They… Read more »

Jean Mary Mayland
Guest
Jean Mary Mayland

I am glad WATCH has come out so strongly. I made my first speech on this issue in Church Assembly in 1966.I long for women bishops. I may not see them now BUT there is no way I would desire women bishops on these terms. If the debate is not adjourned then this Measure must be voted down.

davigoss
Guest
davigoss

I agree that WATCH are right to take a very strong stand on this. The bishops must withdraw their amendment. There is no distinction in Christ between male and female.

JeremyP
Guest
JeremyP

WATCH has been more than gracious. I think there are two things that should happen:

1. Vote the Measure down (actually, even if it is passed, I rather wonder whether Parliament would pass such a discriminatory piece of legislation!?)

2. Start the campaign for a Single Clause Measure.

Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer
Guest
Lapinbizarre/Roger Mortimer

Interesting piece from Elaine Storkey on Fulcrum’s web-page. http://www.fulcrum-anglican.org.uk/page.cfm?ID=730

Father David
Guest
Father David

Thank you for that clarification, Simon, which seems to prove that we do indeed already have first and second class bishops. Q. When is a bishop a second class bishop? A. When he is a member of the “College of Bishops” but not a member of the “House of Bishops” and therefore deprived of a vote on important doctrinal issues. How arcane is that? I was pleased to see that the Bishop of Beverley can be regarded as first class – the only one of the trinity of PEVs not to join the Ordinariate. I think that Jeremy is correct… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

It seems to me to be entirely sound that the HoB consists primarily of the diocesan bishops. Ecclesiologically, they are the Fathers in God, the chief pastors of their respective dioceses. Each diocese is represented equally. We may not always agree with them either collectively or individually, but in an episcopal church this does make sense. Diocesan bishops are the ones with authority, jurisdiction etc; bishops suffragan act in accordance with the instrument of delegation from their diocesan bishop. So suffragans are not independent. The Bishop of Dover is present to represent the diocese of Canterbury, independently of its bishop,… Read more »

Father David
Guest
Father David

But presumably, Simon, the Bishop of Dover and the other seven suffragans have equal voting rights as the diocesans which rather knocks your argument on the head and makes some bishops (i.e. House of Bishops bishops as opposed to those “outside the camp”) more equal than others. I’m sure that in no way (although from different Provinces) the Bishop of Beverley represents the views of the Bishop of Grantham within that curious curia – the House of Bishops. “Ecclesiologically that’s a bit of a mess” – At the present time – ecclesiologically the Church of England is a bit of… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

“Ecclesiologically, they are the Fathers in God, the chief pastors of their respective dioceses.”

– Simon Kershaw –

AH!. Now I see the real problem: ‘Fathers in God’!
There will no doubt be some reluctance to having to address someone as ‘Mother in God’. However, many of the male bishops might not be averse to calling the B.V.M. by her traditional title ‘Mother OF God’.

Revd Rosie Bates
Guest
Revd Rosie Bates

Whilst I achingly agree that we should take a strong stand against discrimination and most of angry me wants to say ‘No,No,No!’ to a remaining discriminatory clause – what a crying waste this could be. I am more inclined to have faith in what certain women waiting in the wings can do in the eye of the very real storm facing the Anglican communion at all levels. The very women we might wish to delay for a more favourable climate are those who have the grace and guts to openly address the major problems in the disaster zone. They will… Read more »