Failure to vote in women Bishops risks ‘constitutional crisis’ in Church
The Church of England is facing a “major constitutional crisis” and should vote through women bishops by 2015, according to a secret memo written for the archbishops.
Within 72 hours of the vote William Fittall, secretary-general of the General Synod, wrote a memo warning the decision would “badly damage” the Church.
He said the Church must take steps to overturn the vote and consecrate women bishops or the decision risks being taken out of its hands by Parliament.
The memo, meant for the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and passed to The Times, stated: “Unless the Church of England can show very quickly that it’s capable of sorting itself out, we shall be into a major constitutional crisis in Church-State relations, the outcome of which cannot be predicted with confidence.”
As the Church’s most senior “civil servant”, Mr Fittall is seldom ignored.
Mr Fittall outlined a plan to consecrate women bishops with no provision for opponents being put to Synod when it meets at the University of York in July.
After going through revision committees and the dioceses, it could be ready to vote through to Parliament by 2015 or earlier, he says, insisting that radical action is the only way to avoid a constitutional crisis and hinting at possible disestablishment if the Church fails to sort itself out.
He warned: “We have to do so because time is not on our side. Parliament is impatient.”
Both the parliamentary representative for the Church Commissioners, Sir Tony Baldry, and now the Secretary-General of the Church of England General Synod, Mr. William Fittal, have expressed grave concerns about the result of the failure of the Draft Measure for the Ordination of Women Bishops in the C. of E. This must raise important concerns about what steps will be taken by Church officials in the near future that will ensure that the issue is re-visited by General Synod at the earliest opportunity.
The House of Bishops will be meeting to discuss this urgent matter early in December. One wonders what could be done by them to save the issue from being relegated to nothing more important than just being scheduled as part of ‘further business’ for the next 2015, General Synod? There can be little doubt that some Members of the House of Commons, at least, are keen that the Church be seen to be compliant with basic justice, where there appears to be sexist discrimination in the State Church against women.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand