Thinking Anglicans

House of Bishops meeting

The House of Bishops met yesterday and today and has issued this summary of its proceedings.

House of Bishops Statement
20 May 2014

The House of Bishops of the Church of England met at Bishopthorpe Palace in York on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th May 2014.

In a wide ranging agenda the House discussed issues including: the progress of legislation on women in the episcopate, the meeting of the General Synod in July, additional liturgical materials for baptism, closer working with the Methodist church, shared conversations on enabling wider debate of the Pilling report and the place of Bishops in public debate.

On the progression of legislation enabling Women in the Episcopate, the House approved the House of Bishops Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests which sets out arrangements for those parishes who on theological grounds are unable to accept the ministry of women priests or bishops. The House also voted to amend their standing orders so to ensure the Declaration cannot be amended without the majority of two-thirds of each house of the General Synod. The House agreed guidance notes for Bishops and Parishes on the Declaration that will be issued prior to General Synod.

The House of Bishops supported exploring with political parties the possibility of amending existing arrangements for the selection of Lords Spiritual in order that the first women diocesan Bishops will be able to become members of the Bishops’ Bench in the House of Lords more quickly than would otherwise be the case under current arrangements.

In their consideration of the business to be discussed at the July meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England, the House noted proposals for a debate on safeguarding legislation being introduced in Synod on Friday afternoon. The House also noted the desire for a debate on the ‘Common Good’ and the Church of England’s contribution to developing, nurturing and participating in the flourishing of all the people of England.

The House of Bishops received a report from the Liturgical commission on the use of additional texts for use in services of Baptism following the piloting of new materials in parishes. The House heard that the feedback form the parishes to the use of the texts had been largely positive and welcoming. Following a debate and minor amendments to the text the House voted for the new texts to progress to being debated by General Synod.

The House discussed a draft report and note from the Council for Christian Unity on closer working with the Methodist Church and a report from the Joint Implementation Committee which is provisionally due to be presented for discussion by the Methodist conference and the General Synod. The House agreed that the paper should be debated at the next synod after July.

The House also discussed the next steps in the process for conversations around Human Sexuality. In its discussion the House noted that the process of shared conversations needed to demonstrate primarily how the Church of England could model living together with issues of tension, where members took opposing views whilst remaining committed to one another as disciples of Jesus Christ – members of one church in both unity and diversity. The House agreed to a proposed process and timescale for the conversations with regional discussions taking place over the next two years. The House also authorised its Standing Committee to sign off the final arrangements and materials.

The House concluded its meeting with a discussion of the place of the Church of England and its Bishops in public debate. The House heard presentations which emphasised the need for the Church develop its confidence arising from its well-developed and sustained levels of service to communities across the country. The House also heard of the importance of sustaining the place of Bishops and faith based organisations in the public square at a time when confidence in the wider political process was being eroded and the place of faith based values was being challenged. The House heard how the work of Bishops and the wider church in its provision of foodbanks, partnerships with civic society, chairing economic and policy reviews, living wage and credit union work demonstrated the role of the Church of England at both a delivery and strategic level in areas of civic engagement, community cohesion and social justice.

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Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

“It was noted with deep regret that our guidance on gay marriage has been very badly received both in the country and much of the Church. It was acknowledged that the document had been badly drafted.”

How excellent that the bishops had the sense and courage to face this truth. I now have some small hope that the future looks brighter.

Nathaniel Brown
Guest
Nathaniel Brown

Oh good! More conversations! But will anyone actually listen? And who gets to talk? One might point out that the public at large listened long ago, and has largely moved on, believing that the church is out of date and in the wrong. Perhaps that is what might be listened to?

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

Downside: gay marriage, not equal marriage.

Upside: marriage, not “marriage”.

It looks like they are withdrawing through a succession less strongly held, and less divisive, positions.

Bishop Alan Wilson
Guest

Martin, where was your quote from?

Commentator
Guest
Commentator

I do not understand why there’s a need to change the process for bishop’s entering the House of Lords. When a diocesan bishop is appointed who is a woman, she will need the same amount of time to settle in to her diocese as any man similarly appointed. This is the same error as was made when the Church of England admitted women to the diaconate and created special representation in the House of Clergy in the General Synod. Male deacons had to wait their turn for representation at the next election. We didn’t create a new group following each… Read more »

Tobias Haller
Guest

Oh, Martin, I wish TA had a “like” button for that one…

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

So now it’s ‘shared conversations’ rather than ‘facilitated’ and they are now to be regional rather than diocesan. So what is going on? And here we are getting on for six months after Pilling and they still haven’t started. The two years seems to be stretching further and further into the distance and with it the hope that the ‘shared or facilitated’ conversations are going to get us anywhere at all. Is there any evidence at all that those who now say NO to same sex relationships are in any way prepared to acknowledge that others have equally valid if… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Guest
Martin Reynolds

My attempt at irony, Alan.

Father Ron Smith
Guest

So! It would appear to be “All System Go” ?

If all is followed through as projected by this meeting, then the hopes of us colonials for Mother Church might yet be restored!

Iain mclean
Guest
Iain mclean

I hope they press on with these conversations with political parties. I predict a rude awakening. At least two of the main parties are likely to say, ” please make your case for staying in the Lords at all. And forget about it unless you apply general anti-discrimination law to your nominations to the house”.

Robert Ellis
Guest
Robert Ellis

I really do think that its too late for these “shared conversations”. People have moved on and most of us are completely bored with the whole subject and just want to be able to deal with the reality of the situation. I just cannot be bothered and if this attempt is anything like took place in my last Diocese (Europe)with regard to the “listening process” then it will be a farce….most folk were running scared of discussing the situation and it was just fudged. Martin…I too was fooled by your irony, if only it had been true….tho I find it… Read more »

Leon
Guest
Leon

So the bishops are explicitly looking for a solution where people hold opposing views while remaining committed to each other. I hadn’t noticed this being spelt out so clearly before, but I probably wasn’t paying attention.

If this has been agreed, has it also been agreed what happens to the people who, in conscience, are not able to commit to those who hold opposing views. If we knew that, this whole issue could probably be resolved quite quickly.

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

RE. Commentator I am not sure we changed the rules for women deacons. Deacons have always been able to stand for house of clergy elections. On fast tracking women into the Lords -we have had some discussion of this so the HofB can get a sense of how people feel. It is difficult to get it right, but since the government is putting us under some pressure to pass the legislation (or at least some legislation), there is a need to get women in the Lords quickly – otherwise bishops remain the only section of the Lords to have a… Read more »

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

“The House also heard of the importance of sustaining the place of Bishops and faith based organisations in the public square at a time when confidence in the wider political process was being eroded and the place of faith based values was being challenged.”

English public to House of Bishops: Is discrimination a “faith-based value”?

Simon Kershaw
Admin

The seniority rule was enacted by the Bishopric of Manchester Act 1847, which laid down how the Crown should issue Writs of Summons to bishops.

So presumably any variation of this legislation would itself require legislation — either an Act of Parliament or possibly a Measure of the General Synod. Not just an informal agreement between the bishops and (the ministers of) the Crown.

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

It looks like what needs amending is section 5 of the Bishoprics Act 1878: where there is a vacancy for one of the 21 Lords Spiritual who are not ex-officio (i.e. other than Canterbury, York, Durham, London, Winchester) it “shall be supplied by the issue of a writ of summons to that bishop of a see in England who having been longest bishop of a see in England has not previously become entitled to such writ : Provided, that where a bishop is translated from one see to another, and was at the date of his translation actually sitting as… Read more »

Charles Read
Guest
Charles Read

Simon – yes, I think the HofB willask Parliament to do this.

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“otherwise bishops remain the only section of the Lords to have a gender bar.”

Not to mention a sexuality bar. It’s like that Monty Python sketch, isn’t it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruces_sketch

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

“the Church of England could model living together with issues of tension, where members took opposing views whilst remaining committed to one another as disciples of Jesus Christ – members of one church in both unity and diversity.” Unity in diversity is exactly what I’ve been arguing for all along. But if that is what the House of Bishops is seeking, can they not see the incongruity of threatening sanctions against priests who marry, and repudiating the diverse views, values and consciences of half of the church, in the partisan ‘episcopal letter’? Unity in diversity does NOT mean imposed uniformity.… Read more »

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

Different churches and communities, in their various contexts and missions, will live that out in different ways. And if a church in Nigeria or Uganda wants to live it out in their own (and more conservative) way, then so be it. There is nothing whatsoever, in what we do in a rainbow, varied English Church to stop them. Here in England, we are who we are, we are where we are at this impasse, and people’s lives are not theories or diplomatic bargaining chips. Gay and lesbian Christians here in the UK will marry (as is their civil right) and… Read more »

cseitz
Guest
cseitz

“So the bishops are explicitly looking for a solution where people hold opposing views while remaining committed to each other.”

Perceptive.

Or, “The Bishops are explicitly acknowledging that opposing views are logically incapable of being reconciled–everyone has heard one another in surfeit–and so want to know whether it is possible to co-exist” and I might add “how to do so, given practical realities.”

I think this is at last a candid admission.

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

An amendment to the Bishoprics Act 1878 (if that is the relevant legislation) could be tacked on to any piece of legislation I should have thought. If it is deemed church legislation which the General Synod needs to initiate there is no reason why the long dreary process for Measures cannot be dispensed with and the Government agree time for it in their timetable. There is a good case for revising it. I would propose that as from the appointed day, the next appointed bishop should be the longest serving diocesan woman bishop and thereafter the order of precedence should… Read more »

Interested Observer
Guest
Interested Observer

“I would propose that as from the appointed day, the next appointed bishop should be the longest serving diocesan woman bishop and thereafter the order of precedence should alternate between the longest serving man and the longest serving woman” Can you think of another piece of legislation on the current UK statute book which enforces a rigid 50/50 gender balance in the membership of a body? “We’d like an exemption to the Sex Discrimination Act in order to pursue a policy of positive discrimination to dig us out of the hole caused by decades of sex discrimination” is not the… Read more »

Simon Sarmiento
Guest
Edward Prebble
Guest
Edward Prebble

There is of course another way to get women bishops into the House of Lords, and that is to appoint them to London, Winchester or Durham – or even York or Canterbury, but that might be too radical. I do realise that there is a minor technicality in the way,which is that these sees are currently occupied, but perhaps some fast-tracked translations to Hereford, Carlisle or Gloucester could be arranged!

Anthony Archer
Guest
Anthony Archer

This is clearly already being considered. All that would happen is that the order of precedence would be adjusted to reflect gender. It would actually be quite enlightened. There would need to be a formula if the Act was to be changed. Bishops are not considered for their suitability for appointment to the Lords. The next most senior gets the nod. However, I suspect all this will get kicked into the long grass, as the future of bishops in the House of Lords generally is the overarching issue, male or female.

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

I don’t think you mean Carlisle, which is already occupied… perhaps Newcastle or Oxford was what you intended? No chance for Hereford though which is due to be sorted before July.

Robin Ward
Guest
Robin Ward

The simple solution would be to make the first woman diocesan bishop a life peer. And there are still ninety two hereditary peers in the House of Lords, virtually all of whose peerages cannot be inherited by women, so the gender bar is certainly not one that only affects the bishops.

primroseleague
Guest
primroseleague

“otherwise bishops remain the only section of the Lords to have a gender bar.” apart from the 96 places reserved for hereditary peers which are replaced by vote amongst the hereditary peerage on the death of one of the 96. Obviously in a fully reformed house these places will go, but at the moment there’s something like 2 titles which can descend down the female line without changing the letters patent for each title by Act of Parliament, so the Lord Bishops are in fact under current legislation outnumbered by getting on for 3:1 by seats also reserved for men,… Read more »

John
Guest
John

I agree with every last syllable Susannah writes here.

Commentator
Guest
Commentator

The women deacons were given a one off special election to have immediate representation in the House of Clergy. Afterwards they were treated as all other newly ordained deacons. Why this initial concession was made must have been a gender based decision to get the mix in place as quickly as possible. But it did give a disproportionate representation to a small section of clergy. Newly ordained male deacons could neither vote nor stand until the next scheduled General Synod elections.

ian
Guest
ian

The simple solution would be to make the first woman diocesan bishop a life peer.
So she would remain a peer even after she retired?Why?
Abolish the lot I say!( Lords, not bishops, I hasten to add)

Philip Hobday
Guest
Philip Hobday

I wonder whether it is possible for a serving bishop to become a life peer? While most archbishops and some diocesans (Harries, Shephard) have been given life peerages this has been after their retirement. And even if it were possible it would hardly find much favour as it would increase the proportion of Anglicans in the House. By far the best thing to do would be to abolish the seniority rule entirely – so apart from the five bishops who are Lords Spiritual ex-officio, the remaining 21 would be chosen by the Church itself (perhaps by the House of Bishops?)… Read more »

Peter Owen
Guest

Readers might be interested in this House of Lords Library Note on “Women in the House of Lords”.

http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/lln-2014-008.pdf

john not mccain
Guest
john not mccain

“Newly ordained male deacons could neither vote nor stand until the next scheduled General Synod elections. “

I have such pity for the poor, oppressed men I’m not sure there are words small enough to express it.

Stephen Morgan
Guest
Stephen Morgan

‘Newly ordained male deacons could neither vote nor stand until the next scheduled General Synod elections.’

Poor little loves!

John
Guest
John

Looks like Susannah has won the debate. Excellent. Now let’s all set about implementing her vision.

commentator
Guest
commentator

‘John not ..’ and Stephen M –
Either both sets of newly ordained Deacons are equally entitled to representation with immediate effect or neither is. So hold the sarcasm. I was merely pointing out that there should be real equality and that, over time, we should get better & wiser about how we implement it.

Stephen Morgan
Guest
Stephen Morgan

‘there should be real equality,’

Yes, of course, but until very recently, men did not seem very concerned at all whether women had it. They still do not have ‘real equality’ in the CofE so moaning about a small piece of positive discrimination mildly inconveniencing a few male deacons seems, well…petty!