Thinking Anglicans

Women Bishops: Draft Legislation

Updated Thursday morning

The final text of the controversial clause 5(1)(c) to be presented to General Synod in November has been agreed by the House of Bishops; it is given towards the end of the press release reproduced below.

NEWS from the Church of England
12/9/12 – For immediate release

Women Bishops: Draft Legislation

The House of Bishops has today by an overwhelming majority settled the text of the legislation to enable women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The House of Bishops made clear its desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval to the Church of England’s General Synod in November.

Speaking on behalf of the House at the conclusion of their meeting the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams said:

“Before turning to the matters we have been discussing, I want to say, on behalf of the Bishops, that our thoughts and prayers are very much with the people of Liverpool and all affected by the Hillsborough tragedy on this day when the report is released. The Bishop of Liverpool has done a great service in steering this work to a conclusion and helping us as a nation to confront this deeply traumatic memory.”

Dr. Williams continued:

“Since women were first made priests in the Church of England in 1994, their ministry has hugely enriched both church and society. It has become increasingly clear to most of us that barring women from becoming bishops is an anomaly that should be removed, for the good of the Church’s mission and service.

“In July this year, the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider an alteration it had made to the proposed legislation on this subject. The Bishops have taken very seriously the anxieties expressed about the possible implications of their amendment and there has been widespread consultation since then. We are very grateful for all the points and suggestions offered by synod members and others.

“In light of this consultation, the Bishops have discussed the measure again and are now bringing forward a new text that expresses both our conviction of the need to see this legislation passed and our desire to honour the conscience and contribution of those in the Church of England whose reservations remain.

“It is particularly significant and welcome that the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but rather from a serving woman priest.

“I hope all members of Synod will now reflect carefully on what the Bishops have decided and will continue to give thought and prayer to how they will vote in November.”

“I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep hope that the legislation will pass in November.”

At its meeting in July the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider a provision in the legislation – Clause 5(1)(c) of the draft measure.

The new amendment submitted by the Rev. Janet Appleby during the consultation process received overwhelming support from the House of Bishops in both their discussions and in the final vote.

In discussion the Bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with parishes that it will promote.

The final text proposed by the House of Bishops is:

Substitute for the words in clause 5(1)(c): “the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3”

The House also agreed to establish a group to develop the illustrative draft Code of Practice published in January to give effect to the new provision.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has recorded a podcast about the new text proposed by the House of Bishops. It can be downloaded from the beginning of Archbishop speaks about women bishops draft legislation. A transcript is also available.


  • Jeremy Pemberton says:

    Is this better? I think so. Perhaps not least because it is vaguer.

    I cannot believe it will satisfy Reform and FiF. So there is a lot of difficulty yet to come.

  • Susan Cooper says:

    It is best that we are going to get from this House of Bishops! Can we vote for it? Can those who are less certain vote for it, or at least abstain?

  • Original Observer says:

    But what does it mean in practice? Can you respect someone’s position without giving him what he is asking for?

    If the legislation is passed then the focus will move to the code of practice. The $64,000 question is not to do with women bishops (there aren’t any yet and, won’t be at least for a year or two), but rather what happens under any new scheme when a parish seeks an alternative to a male bishop who ordains women. In other words, will the new scheme preserve the “two integrities” / resolution C model we have at present? The new wording does not make this clear.

  • Commentator says:

    Can somebody please help me out? What exactly does this clause now mean?
    It is still sad that there has been no apology from the HoB for tinkering with an agreed draft that had gone out for discussion across the dioceses and deaneries of the Church of England. Can the Synod demand that the measure returns to its original form even now? I do hope so.

  • Pam Smith says:

    I have really lost track of the process, which in my view is quite an indictment of the process.

    But as far as I can remember it isn’t open to Synod to amend what the HoB presents, just accept or reject.

    The fact that this was voted for overwhelmingly – whereas the original amendment only squeaked through as far as I can gather – does give me hope that there is a bit more of a will among the bishops to persuade people to support it than there was for Clause 5.i(c).

    It seems that there has been a lot of effort put into finding a way forward, so while I’m not usually a fan of being ‘gracious’, in this case I am very grateful both for the effort and for the accompanying statement from ++ Rowan which does make it clear that he believes the church needs to be able to appoint women as bishops as soon a possible.

  • Can ANYONE explain how this will help the Church of England to accept the Ordination of Women as Bishops without prejudicing the normal canonical authority of a diocesan bishop – if that bishop if female?

  • Original Observer says:

    Commentator – No further amendments are possible – it’s take it or leave it now.

  • Father David says:

    “significantly watered down”

    BBC TODAY programme – 13th September 2012

  • Wilf says:

    Definitely better and reflects what I hope all those exercising powers under the measure would want to do.

    Those implacably opposed to women bishops will vote against as they always would. The synodical battle ground has always been those who are in favour of women bishops but keen to give opponents any concession they want. I hope that this will sway those voters to vote in favour of the legislation.

    It improves the last 5(1)(c) in that there is no danger that this will require the setting up of, for instance, sees for conservative evangelical flying bishops to go with the anglo-catholic ones. However, it remains that the sub-text of making sure that conservative catholic parishes can be sure of being given sacramentally assured bishops and priests and that conservative evangelicals be given episcopal oversight by bishops that don’t mind presiding at a confirmation in a sports jacket is satisfied.

    Vote yes, therefore, and let’s move on.

  • Bernard Silverman says:

    Commentator asks “what exactly does this clause mean?” Whether or not it makes sense in law to have a clause about which this question can be asked, it could be seen as a smart political move precisely for that reason.

  • Leon Clarke says:

    Vague is not good in a legal document. I wish bishops were able to understand that. So either this means something but we don’t know what, or it doesn’t mean anything. But we won’t know which until we’ve built up enough case law. The main problem with this clause is the money spent on lawyers building up that case law.

  • Original Observer says:

    It would seem to me that replacing “theological convictions” with “grounds” is a distinction without a difference, as the grounds can only be rooted in theological conviction. But replacing “consistent with” by “respect” is an exercise in studied vagueness for reason of political expediency, i.e. securing the passage of the legislation. Must any theological conviction be respected? And what action does respect compel?

  • Hannah says:

    Leon, I don’t think it’s as vague as all that. This is one sub-clause in a list of things about which the Code of Practice must give guidance. The Code of Practice will be agreed and in place (and people will be bound by it) before there is the opportunity for such cases as you mention to arise.

    So what will be important is what goes into the Code of Practice.

  • David Walker says:

    The key to this clause is the word “respect”. It hits the moral register not just the legal one.

    Also it is consistent with the language of the Lambeth 1998 resolution that refers to both positions being honoured – language that has been picked up at various times during the synodical process as representing what most want.

    It’s also good to see a clause that is phrased in straightforward English.

  • Jean Mayland says:

    This wording avoids putting into LAW the concepts of ‘untainted bishops’ and second class women even though people in some Parishes may still hold those views. It gives us chance to move on together and hopefully in time those ideas will fade away.

    I know the young woman who suggested it and I think she is to be congratulated.

    I hope General Synod will vote for it.
    Jean Mayland

  • Feria says:

    Original Oberver: ‘No further amendments are possible – it’s take it or leave it now.’.

    …with the subtle exception that, if the measure is carried in Synod and passes to Parliament, parliamentary officials (specifically, the Chairman of Ways and Means of the House of Commons and the Chairman of Committees of the House of Lords) can split it into two or more separate measures, allowing Parliament to “take or leave” each one separately.

    It’s very rarely done: I think it last happened in 1964, when the Clergy (Ordination and Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure was split into two parts, one of which was passed and the other was abandoned.

  • Jim Pratt says:

    While vagueness in legislation is not good in the legal context, if the focus here is on the legalities, then the Church is indeed in serious trouble. Legalism will only beget more legalism, and increasingly difficult and unwieldy structures.

    What is needed is not legalism, but a pastoral response, and vagueness allows a pastoral response suited to the particular needs and objections of particular parishes and clergy.

    The experience in the US and Canada has been, without any legislation beyond vague conscience clauses, for the most part respectful and amicable (the notable exception being Jane Dixon in Washington forcing visits on unwilling parishes). Bishop Sue Moxley is not welcome to celebrate the Eucharist in one of her two cathedrals, and both the diocese and the cathedral parish are doing fine.

  • “This wording avoids putting into LAW the concepts of ‘untainted bishops’ and second class women even though people in some Parishes may still hold those views. It gives us chance to move on together and hopefully in time those ideas will fade away.”

    – Jean Mayland –

    The words of a woman who is keen that Women be ordained Bishops in the Church of England. If this is the best that can be hoped for – in order to facilitate the episcopal ordination of women, then perhaps it should secure sufficient votes to be passed at General Synod.

    As Jean says here; at least, the prospect of legalised discrimination is avoided, so that, hopefully, the ‘notional’ discrimination may pass into oblivion. Jim Pratt’s description of the situation in TEC needs, however, to be noted.

    Our New Zealand prayers are with you all.

  • Pete Broadbent says:

    It’s the end result of what hasn’t been an easy process, but one which demonstrates good faith on both sides. The Code of Practice may still prove difficult, but we have a Measure that enough can vote for and which some of those opposed might even abstain on. Which means that the 2/3 majority is achievable.

    Simple and elegant amendment, from a woman priest with no axe to grind. Hugely grateful to her.

    Voting sometimes involves holding your nose as you do it! And there will be those who still don’t like what is a peculiar compromise.

  • Confused Sussex says:

    I agree those of us keen to have women bishops should accept and move on.

  • Randal Oulton says:

    @ Ron Smith ” Jim Pratt’s description of the situation in TEC needs, however, to be noted.”

    Jim said: “Bishop Sue Moxley is not welcome to celebrate the Eucharist in one of her two cathedrals, and both the diocese and the cathedral parish are doing fine.”

    Well the shocking thing is, that’s actually in Canada, though 1/2 hour googling didn’t bring up any details on what Jim mentioned, perhaps it’s all kept hush hush as far as hitting the media is concerned.

  • Gill Henwood says:

    I have just read through the whole of GS 1708C (Draft Bishops and Priests (Consec and Ordin of Women) Measure to get an overview of how the new amendment fits in. As a former GS member I am not aware now of any discriminatory obstacle, but await comments from those whose understanding may be more perceptive. I am particularly aware of the need for diocesan bishops, and the episcopal leadership in general, to foster collegiality to the highest degree in every small and large context for this to work without faction or ghettos. Perhaps the hard process to get to this point has given everyone the will to co-exist with genuine Christian charity and integrity based on accepting difference. If the measure succeeds in November, may the Gospel now become our shared focus and our commitment as servants prevail.

  • Jeremy says:

    The key phrase is “in a manner which respects the grounds.”

    Does this mean that a theology of taint must be respected?

    To the contrary, it needs to be stamped out. And in time, thank God, it will be.

  • John Taylor says:

    We read of what is in my opinion indecisiveness of The House of Bishops and long for the return of the Christian spirit we have been taught to practice and believe in, where we are equal in the eyes of God. CAN THE BISHOPS NOT DECIDE WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES? If it’s to be Woman Bishops let it be Woman Bishops, Nothing Else. What is all this costing? What is the cost of maintaining flying Bishops.
    I wonder who amongst those involved in these exchanges is an ordinary parishioner living in a village with an ‘Anti Woman Bishop‘ priest and an honorary assistant priest presiding over one country Parish (population 1300) in a area where priests and voluntary helpers are struggling to man Team Ministries with a large number of parishes in each. Where just under half of the congregation (approx 15 people) now come from outside and with a small number of supportive locals favoured by the priest and aided by a suspect Electoral Roll, have taken over the church. Where you cannot participate because you are not one of them. Finally. where the number of villagers habitually attending church has sunk to 1.5% of the population and is of mainly elderly.

  • Original Observer says:

    There is no ‘theology of taint’; the issue, as I understand it, is rather one of collegiality. Every priest needs to recognise the entire college of priests over which his bishop presides. If that college contains women, then a priest who does not accept female orders cannot be a member of such a college. This is the origin of the need for bishops, wrongly called ‘untainted’, who do not ordain women at all.

  • Benedict says:

    WATCH remain strangely quiet on this latest amendment to an amendment. My hunch is that their bluff has now been called and they may see it as an act of grace and goodwill in calling on members of General Synod to vote for the Measure. According to their general publicity, any provision for traditionalists is a bad thing, but let’s see.

  • Lindsay Southern says:

    Benedict, WATCH issued a press statement regarding the new wording of the clause on Wednesday. I don’t think that any bluffing has in fact been taking place and like many other groups have been hoping for a way through the impasse. WATCH are FOR the full and equal inclusion of women in the episcopate, rather than against traditionalists.

  • Sara MacVane says:

    @ Original Observer: HOWEVER, my bishop, who is opposed to women priests and does not ordain them (himself) presides over a college of priests which includes many women and also some male colleagues who would agree with the bishop. So who is in communion with whom? Who is tainted and who untainted? A mystery.

  • Joe says:

    Sara hits the nail on the head: this is the real problem — not so much the choice of particular clergy to minister in a parish, but the whole idea that some diocesan bishops are permitted not to recognise the orders, sacraments and jurisdiction of their own priests in their own diocese never mind that of bishops in other dioceses. Once you say that (and we have said it since the Act of Synod), then we have invented a whole new notion of episcopacy and, frankly, of church. We’re basically using a model of institutionalised impaired communion to legislate for communion. The current debate is an example of our worrying over matters that are important, but secondary. When we decided to ordain women, we should have realised what was implied. As some others have said, it would have made much more theological sense to consecrate a woman bishop before ordaining priests.

    We have a situaton where members of our church are welcomed and enabled not to recognise the validity of the orders, the sacraments and the authority of our own clergy. I still find it very odd.

  • Original Observer says:

    Sara MacVane / Joe,

    I agree that the system is full of paradox and anomaly.

    I do not see how a diocesan bishop can avoid having all the priests, male or female, in his college; he is automatically the ordinary for all the parishes in his diocese. But the relationship which counts for more on the ground is the relationship with the area bishop. Those priests wanting supervision from a bishop who does not ordain women must pass Resolution C and access the PEV system. The PEVs are appointed by the Archbishops, neither of whom ordains women, I believe. That way there is always access to an all-male college, even when there is impaired communion with the diocesan.

    Those women priests whose diocesan does not accept female orders are indeed in an invidious position: they know their own diocesan bishop does not recognise them as priests. Everyone may be much too polite to put that way, but logically that must be the way it is.

    There is no easy or painless way out of this situation. You may regret that women bishops were not consecrated as a first step; others may regret that the break with orthodoxy and the consensus of the universal church ever happened.

  • Martin Reynolds says:

    I regret I have not read the legislation but am curious to know following on from a comment by Original Observer, what happens when one or both of the Archbishops are women?

  • Jean Mayland says:

    I would say to Benedict that although there has not been a policy reply from WATCH to the new wording, both Janet and I are members of WATCH

    Jean Mayland

  • Pam Smith says:

    “I would say to Benedict that although there has not been a policy reply from WATCH to the new wording, both Janet and I are members of WATCH”

    So am I. It’s my understanding that the executive will be consulting members before making a decision about whether to support voting for the measure with the new clause in place.

  • Original Observer says:

    Those interested in the doctrinal position of those implacably opposed to the ordination of women should read the link

  • Geoff says:

    I would not expect it to be publicized (the informality, as Fr Pratt says, is part of the nature of the thing), but pontifical functions at St Peter’s Cathedral, Charlottetown PEI are taken by +Sue’s (male) suffragan. (The dual-cathedra situation is a result of the peculiar historical circumstances of the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). Interestingly, back issues of New Directions suggest (it was before my time) that its constituency was much embattled by +Sue’s predecessor and his insistence that ordinands receive communion from women priests.

  • Sara MacVane says:

    Does anyone know for sure that neither archbishop ordains women? It sounds outrageous to this American (! I know, I know….). And when RW was a Welsh bishop?

  • Jean Mayland says:

    Sorry to be here again but it is only to reply to a question. ++ Rowan did ordain women priests in Wales and ++ Sentamu did the same in Birmingham. They both ordain women as Deacons.I think ++Sentamu has ordained women priests in York Diocese but on the whole women are priested there by two of the Suffragans. I do not know what happens in Canterbury.

  • Rachel Moriarty says:

    The amendment now proposed is an improvement on the earlier one, in avoiding legalism and simply ‘respecting conviction’, but it still leaves a gap: in a diocese where at present no bishop receives women’s sacramental ministry, would it be possible for a parish to request a bishop who did receive it, according to their own convictions?

  • Peter Owen says:

    Sentamu does ordain women priests; this list from June this year includes people called Patricia, Rebecca, Jacqueline and Irene.

  • Philip Hobday says:

    In Canterbury diocese, Archbishop Rowan ordained both men and women to the priesthood.

  • Tobias Haller says:

    The Forward in Faith document referenced by Original Observer appears to make the grounds of concern to be doubt rather than denial. Elsewhere there has been language of “assurance” which I take to be a similar thread of concern.

    It seems to me that taken together, two of the Articles of Religion (XXIII and XXVI) sought to provide sufficient assurance: the former making it clear that one ought to judge as as lawfully called and sent whoever is called and sent by those with the public authority to do so. The latter decrees that all who are ordered and consecrated according to Form are rightly, orderly and lawfully ordered and consecrated.

    The express purpose of these articles was to remove doubt, and provide assurance. They could still serve in this for those willing to allow the authority of the church to speak to them.

  • Original Observer says:

    If ++York and ++Canterbury do indeed ordain women then the FiF position is weak as the PEVs are suffragans of those dioceses. Assuming the suffragan does not have a presbyteral college independent of the bishop who authorises him, it ought to follow that Resolution C priests in fact belong to the colleges of either ++York or ++Canterbury, both of which must contain women even if the respective archbishops do not ordain them. I could well be wrong about this and input from an expert theologian would be welcome.

    FiF does not represent all Anglo Catholics; from the document I have referenced their position does appear particularly extreme. The assurance sought by following the FiF line seems more like a chimera. By contrast, there are many quietly orthodox priests who stick to diocesan structures and may not pass any resolutions at all.

    It would be no bad thing if the blowhards at both extremes of this debate were to end up isolated. Mainstream Anglo Catholics can then find adequate assurance from male priests and bishops along the lines outlined above by Tobias Haller.

  • Gill Henwood says:

    Re dioceses with bishops who do not ordain women: There is provision in the Measure ((GS 1708C) on p2 para 2(5) which says “Where a scheme made under this section includes a statment by the bishop that he will not ordain women to the office of priest, the scheme shall make provision- (a) for the ordination of female candidates for the office of priest, and (b) for the support of the ministry of clergy who are women and their pastoral care.” This seems to me a good improvement, as I have served all but 18 months of my 15 years of ordained ministry in dioceses with a diocesan who does not ordain women priests (Blackburn, London) or the Whitby area of York where the suffragan does not. A scheme which is mandatory for the care of women seems to be alongside the provision of a scheme to provide for those who do not affirm women’s ordained ministry. That’s my interpretation, but I am open to hear others’ views, of course.

  • Joe says:

    Gill: Re this being an improvement: I agree on one level (in terms of a generous attempt at a generous provision), but on another level the Measure is thereby facilitating the diocesan bishop in not recognising the validity of the sacraments celebrated in one of ‘his’ churches. I recognise what they are doing, but it still seems absolutely bonkers (and that’s putting it lightly)….

  • Anne says:

    Thank you, Original Observer, for your comment on 15 September at 12.02 BST “Those interested in the doctrinal position of those implacably opposed to the ordination of women should read the link

    Under “General Principles” I find this:
    e) ……that provision be made for those opposed to the Measure to be ordained by men who have not themselves ordained women, or licensed them.

    I have clearly missed something here. This is the first time that I have seen a reference that provision needs to be made when a bishop has licensed a woman. Please will someone enlighten me about this.

  • Original Observer says:

    Anne – I imagine the reason is that the licensing of a priest by a bishop is the procedure via which he or she is admitted to the bishop’s presbyteral college.

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