Code of Practice – Archbishops’ Proposal for Women bishops in the C.of E.

An extract from the Draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure: Draft Code of Practice – January 2012



In May 2010, the House of Bishops, on the recommendation of the Revision Committee, set up a Working Group, drawn from all three Houses of Synod and chaired by the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. It was charged with drafting an illustrative Code of Practice in connection with the draft legislation before Synod to enable women to be ordained as bishops. As some will recall, there had been an earlier illustrative draft produced by the Legislative Drafting Group in 2008, which was overtaken as a result of changes made to the draft Measure by  the revision committee……………………………………

(down to);  “There are, however,.certain important questions of detail outstanding – including the complex issues around how a bishop receiving delegated authority in pastoral oversight of congregations with theological objections over women‘s ordination as priests and bishops might be chosen. As things stand, we shall have to decide whether or not such matters are addressed in the Code; and this cannot finally be settled before 2013.

The House of Bishops does not wish to see any outcome that would entrench radical division or give any impression of a ‘two-tier‘ episcopate. Because of their commitment both to this principle and to the most adequate and sustainable provision for theological dissent over the ordination of women, they are seeking a balanced provision within the overall framework that will allow all members of the Church of England to flourish and to pursue the mission to our nation and society that we share.

We are aware as bishops that there are very difficult decisions ahead for many of our clergy and faithful; we want to honour the desire of all who wish to remain loyal Anglicans, fully engaged in this mission. And we are not thinking in terms of a time-limited provision, mindful that such a suggestion was rejected at the Revision stage of amending the legislation under discussion.

In the light of our discussion, the House will continue to uphold these three principles:

Bishops will continue not to discriminate in selecting candidates for ordination on the grounds of their theological convictions regarding the admission of women to Holy Orders;

 In choosing bishops to provide episcopal ministry under diocesan schemes for parishes requesting this provision, diocesan bishops will seek to identify those whose ministry will be consistent with the theological convictions concerning the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate underlying the Letter of Request;

 The archbishops and bishops commit themselves to seeking to maintain a supply of bishops able to minister on this basis. This will obviously have a bearing on decisions about appointments and on the role of bishops occupying the sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet and Richborough (which will, as a matter of law, continue to exist even after the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod has been rescinded).

How these issues should best be handled and whether there are implications for the text of the Code of Practice, of the Act of Synod that rescinds the existing Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod or indeed of the legislation itself will need very careful reflection. The bishops have not come to any settled view on these things. We recognize how important they are and are determined to give them the time and attention they need, having listened to the forthcoming Synod debates.

As bishops, we are very much aware that the Synod faces probably the most significant set of legislative decisions it has had to deal with for some twenty years. For most in the Church of England, what is in view is a deeply positive change, a great gift to the Church and its ministry in the twenty-first century; for others, who are no less valued and beloved brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, there are deep concerns and uncertainties about the future. In these circumstances, we have to discern how best to take that responsibility for each other 3

that is laid upon us by our communion in Christ. Our prayer is that we can help one another forward, refusing to be imprisoned by a sense of burden and anxiety:

Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything with prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rowan Cantuar: Sentamu Ebor:

January 2012


One wonders precisely how the Archbishops’ desire that there not be introduced any idea of a ‘two-tier’ episcopate, can possibly be equated to their desire to deny a woman diocesan bishop the right to choose who will exercise and episcopal ministry within her diocese. If such a policy were to be adopted, the House of Bishops in the Church of England would be divided on nothing other than the gender of the bishops. That would be discrimination.

Clearly, it is the Archbishops’ desire that the use of ‘Flying Bishops‘ be continued – even if women are ordained to the episcopate.  This already maintains a two-tiered order of Bishops. However, if these (male) F.B.s are licenced to perform episcopal ministry within a diocese without the express permission of the female diocesan bishop, an even further expression of discrimination is being practised.

Further, to continue the process of allowing for anti-women-clergy candidates for the ministry – in a Church which does not discriminate against women clergy, is to further confuse the issue – radically  institutionalisong an endemic culture of discrimination on the basis of gender, something the Church of England does not need to enshrine in its statute books.

One hopes the upcoming General Synod will profoundly reject the Archbishops’ proposal to discriminate in this way against the many women in the Church of England who feel they have a legitimate call into the ministry and, in certain cases,  leadership of the Church in that Province of the Anglican Communion.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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2 Responses to Code of Practice – Archbishops’ Proposal for Women bishops in the C.of E.

  1. Brother David says:

    Me thinks that the Church of England has fallen down the rabbit hole and is gathered around the White Queen’s kitchenette for breakfast!

    Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
    “I dare say you haven’t had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
    Lewis Carroll

  2. David, I absolutely agree. “There’s none so blind as will not see!”

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