A discussion document (GS Misc 1033) has been issued to all members of the General Synod today. It explores possible ways of resolving the issue which led to the adjournment of the final approval debate of the women bishops’ legislation in York a fortnight ago.
Here is a link to GS Misc 1033: Women in the Episcopate – the Final Legislative Lap in PDF format.
And here is a copy of the document as a web page.
The document is in the name of the Secretary General and has been issued with the agreement of the Standing Committee of the House of Bishops (Canterbury, York, London, Coventry, Dover, Gloucester, Norwich and Rochester).
It also reflects input from the Steering Committee for the legislation (Bishop of Manchester, Bishop of Dover, Viv Faull, Paula Gooder, Ian Jagger, Margaret Swinson and Geoffrey Tattersall), and from the three bishops (St Edmundsbury, Chichester and Coventry) who were previously members of the Code of Practice Working Group.
No recommendations are made at this stage. Instead the document sets out the decision making process which now has to be followed, explains how the disputed issue concerning clause 5(1)(c) relates to the rest of the legislation (which cannot now be amended) and discusses seven possible options.
Two of these are to retain or remove clause 5(1)(c). The other five are ways in which the present wording might be replaced by a new provision. These five alternative drafting approaches are not intended to be exhaustive. As the document says at paragraph 11: ‘The hope is that these possibilities will stimulate further suggestions.’
The consultation period ends on 24 August so that the results can be assessed and reported to the House for its meeting on 12 September. On that occasion – which will also be attended by the Steering Committee – the House will need to decide how to respond to the Synod’s request to reconsider clause 5(1)(c). In the light of the decision taken then Synod members will have just over two months to reflect on how they will vote when the Final Approval debate is resumed at the group of sessions called for 19-21 November.
On 12 September the House will also consider the need for supplementing the illustrative draft Code of Practice which was circulated to Synod in January (GS Misc 1007). A final decision will not be needed then because drafting the Code does not at this stage form part of the formal legislative process.