Senior women clergy write to General Synod members

A group of senior women clergy have sent the letter below to the members of General Synod to express their opposition to the bishops’ amendment to Clause 5 of the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure, and urging Synod members to adjourn their debate to allow the bishops to think again.

To all members of General Synod:

Following the House of Bishops’ amendments many people have asked for the perspective of senior women clergy regarding the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure as it now stands.

We the undersigned wish to express our deep dismay at the introduction of Clause 5(1)(c), which has serious implications for the way the Church understands itself and undermines women so profoundly that we are now unable to support the Measure.

We recognise that bishops voted in favour of this amendment in good faith, believing that further assurances for those unable to accept the ministry of ordained women would help secure the Measure’s passing.

However, with the introduction of this clause the Measure is likely to be defeated. It is therefore our hope that the General Synod will adjourn the debate in July and return the legislation to the House of Bishops for further reflection. This will give the opportunity for the Measure (as passed by 42 of the 44 dioceses) to be returned to General Synod for approval later in the year.

The Venerable Christine Allsopp (Archdeacon of Northampton)
The Revd Canon Sarah Bullock (Bishop’s Advisor for Women’s Ministry Diocese of Manchester)
The Venerable Annette Cooper (Archdeacon of Colchester)
The Venerable Penny Driver (Archdeacon of Westmorland and Furness)
The Very Revd Vivienne Faull (Dean of Leicester)
The Venerable Karen Gorham (Archdeacon of Buckingham)
The Revd Canon Jane Hedges (Canon Steward & Archdeacon of Westminster)
The Venerable Canon Janet Henderson (Archdeacon of Richmond)
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons)
The Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestley (Chair of the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women’s Ministry)
The Very Revd Catherine Ogle (Dean of Birmingham)
The Very Revd June Osborne (Dean of Salisbury)

The Venerable Jane Sinclair (Archdeacon of Stow and Lindsey)
The Revd Canon Celia Thomson (Canon Pastor, Gloucester Cathedral)
The Venerable Rachel Treweek (Archdeacon of Hackney)
The Very Revd Dr Frances Ward (Dean of St Edmundsbury)
The Venerable Christine Wilson (Archdeacon of Chesterfield)
The Revd Lucy Winkett(Rector, St James’s Piccadilly)

Posted by Peter Owen on Tuesday, 26 June 2012

This is yet another Letter to Members of the Church of England General Synod, to meet in York next month -to consider, amongst other matters, the Amended Draft Meaure to allow Women to be Ordained Bishops in the Church. The signatories represent some of the most senior Women Clergy in the Church of England who might, in certain circumstances, be expected to answer the call of the Holy Spirit and The Church to the ranks of the episcopate. 

However, they obviously feel that, having already made concessions in order to agree to the composition of the Draft Measure which was prepared by the previous G.S. for debate by the next General Synod (July, 2012), the hurried  imposition of a new Clause 5 Amendment to the Draft Measure – applied by the House of Bishops, and which will become the substantive  proposal to be debated, in place of the original Draft Measure – is a step too far, which would effectively diminish the authority of a female Diocesan Bishop to choose who will minister in her stead in her own diocese.

The fact that many people who have waited a long time for Women Bishops in the Church of England – when other Provinces of the Anglican Communion have experienced the ministry of Women as Priests and Bishops for many years now – are not happy about voting for the Amended Draft Measure, is a pretty sure sign that the Amended Measure will probably be defeated if it comes up for debate at the scheduled date and time in the G.S. While this may please the minority of people in the Church of England who oppose Women’s Ministry at any price, it will not encourage those Women who now make up a considerable percentage of licensed clergy in the C.of E. 

Short of the House of Bishops withdrawing the amendments, allowing the original Draft Measure to go forward for debate, it seems that the whole Measure may have to be shelved until some time in the future –  at a date which would have to be determined by the members of General Synod. This would be a set-back and a huge disappointment for those who believe that the Church of England should proceed with the Ordination of Women Bishops in the Church of England – thus bringing it into line with most Provinces of the world-wide 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 Senior women clergy write to General Synod members

  1. Peter Carrell says:

    Er, Ron, which member churches of the Anglican Communion constitute “most Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion” re the ordination of women bishops? You may be right, but my understanding is that if England were to shelve the proposed legislation and not have women bishops, that would bring it into line with most Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Certainly the only Provinces which have women bishops are Canada, New Zealand, Australia*, and TEC: 4 out of 38, though I imagine Scotland, Ireland and Wales might have legislation permitting women bishops.

    *Even our cousins across the ditch do not have legislation permitting women to be Diocesans. It is on a technicality that women are assistant bishops there, namely that their legislation re assistant bishops happened not to mention the gender of the bishop, whereas their legislation re Diocesans does. Sydney has acknowledged it cannot (and will not challenge) the appointment of assistant bishops irrespective of gender, but has signalled it will not agree to an proposal to change legislation re Diocesans.

    • Thanks for your comment, Peter. In the ‘culture wars’, I’m perhaps indulging in a bit of hyperbole here. Perhaps I should have said, the majority of the Western Provinces of the Anglican Communion now permit Women to be ordained Bishops. After all the GAFCON Provinces do not consider themselves bound to the Lambeth Conference – having their own especial ‘Jerusalem Statement’ as their defining characteristic.

      Regarding the Anglican Sydney Diocese, one already is acutely aware of their attitude towards Women Clergy of any type. I would submit that they are not typically ‘Anglican’, and that their opposition to Women in Holy Orders is not so much a ‘priestly’ thing, as it is a fear of Women gaining positions of responsibility over the male of the species. fortunately, the Australian Province thinks differently.

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