WOMEN BISHOPS: FORWARD IN FAITH RESPONDS TO JULY 2013 GENERAL SYNOD DEBATE
Forward in Faith thanks the many members of the Catholic Group in General Synod, together with other supporters, for their excellent contributions to yesterday’s debate.
Naturally, we are very disappointed that none of the amendments which would have ensured secure provision for those unable to receive the ministry of women as bishops and priests was passed. However, we are encouraged by the significant minorities, especially in the House of Laity, which did vote for such provision. We are confident that these votes, and the commitment which they represent on the part of many to a genuinely inclusive Church of England, in which all may flourish, will not be overlooked as the process moves forward. The alternative, which we would deeply regret, would be to pursue unsatisfactory legislation, lacking the necessary breadth of support, with the strong risk of ultimate defeat.
More detailed comments are set out below.
We welcome the commitment to continuing the facilitated conversations.
We welcome the widespread affirmation of the five points endorsed by the House of Bishops (GS 1886, para. 12), and trust that the draft legislation will embody and reflect all of them together.
We welcome the fact that 49% of the Synod voted for provisions to reduce the risk of legal challenge in the context of parochial appointments, and the resulting commitment to further work on this.
We strongly welcome the proposal, endorsed by many speakers (including the Archbishop of Canterbury) that the Steering Committee should be representative of a broad spectrum of opinion, and should draft legislation to which all can subscribe.
We also welcome the strong support of a very large minority of Synod members for legislation setting out rights and obligations that would create a clear and stable context for our future life together. We note the preference expressed by 40% of the House of Laity and over 30% of the Synod as a whole for provision to be made by Measure or by regulations under Canon.
In later votes even larger minorities, especially in the House of Laity, rejected key elements of the approach preferred by the House of Bishops and by the most uncompromising supporters of women bishops. In the end, 25% of the Synod declined to endorse even the drafting of legislation on that basis. The logical conclusion is that to do so would result in a repeat of last November’s failure.
We feel bound to reiterate that, while we are not trying to prevent women from becoming bishops in the Church of England, we cannot support any legislation which removes the existing rights of the laity to a ministry that they can receive in good conscience and which fails to offer the minority what the working group termed ‘a greater sense of security’ than the previous draft Measure.
We are unconvinced as to how a ‘mandatory grievance procedure’ binding on bishops can deliver this in respect of parochial appointments by lay patrons and incumbents. We question whether replacing Resolutions A and B with this is the right way of going about the rebuilding of trust.
We remain committed to playing our full part in identifying a consensus that will command the necessary breadth of support to enable those who wish to receive the ministry of female bishops to do so in the near future. We hope and pray that further facilitated conversations and a more broadly-based Steering Committee will achieve this.
+ JONATHAN FULHAM
The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham Chairman
Dr Lindsay Newcombe Vice-Chairman
9 July 2013