Latest Proposals on Women Bishops in Church of England

New proposals to enable women to become bishops

Posted On : May 24, 2013 4:19 PM | Posted By : Admin ACO

The Church of England has published, today, new legislative proposals to enable women to become bishops which will be debated by the General Synod in July.

This will be the first occasion that Synod members have met since November 2012, when the previous legislation narrowly failed to secure the requisite majority in all three Houses, despite a 73% majority overall.

The proposals from the House of Bishops accompany the publication of a report of a Working Group which it had established in December. The Working Group’s report sets out four possible options for the shape of the new legislation. Of these the House of Bishops has recommended “the simplest possible legislation” (option one) which reads:

“A measure and amending canon that made it lawful for women to become bishops; and The repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the 1993 Measure, plus the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod.”

In addition, option one involves arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests being set out either in a declaration from the House of Bishops or in a new Act of Synod.

The short report from the Archbishops on behalf of the House sets out the text of a motion which invites the Synod to reaffirm its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency, require the legislative process to begin in November so that it can be concluded in 2015 and specify that the legislation should be in the simplest possible form.

The Business Committee of the General Synod met earlier this week and has scheduled the debate for the morning of Monday, 8 July in York. In addition, Synod members will spend a substantial amount of time in York on the Saturday in facilitated conversations, in which the various options can be explored further.

The Chair of the Working Group, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said on behalf of the Group:

“The mandate given to the Working Group in December reflected the House of Bishops’ view that new proposals would need both greater simplicity and a clear embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth Conference that ‘those who dissent from, as well as those who assent to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are both loyal Anglicans’.

“This mandate did not simply reflect the House of Bishops’ assessment of what was achievable, it also reflected its view of what was desirable – namely that the Church of England should retain its defining characteristic of being a broad Church, capable of accommodating a wide range of theological conviction.”

Bishop Nigel continued: “Given this range of views it is essential to be clear on whether the Church of England is still willing to leave space for those who dissent from its decision. We have approached our task on the basis that the Church of England is so willing.

“To expect unanimity on where the limits of diversity should be drawn may be unrealistic, given the variety of strongly held views which exist and are maintained with integrity. Nevertheless it is necessary to see whether there might be an approach which could command a sufficiently wide measure of assent to enable progress to be made.

“We are perhaps at a moment when the only way forward is one which makes it difficult for anyone to claim outright victory.”

Concluding his statement, Bishop Nigel said: “The Synod, guided by the recommendation that the House of Bishops has now made, needs in July to come to a clear decision about the proposals and options laid before it and give a mandate for the introduction of a draft measure and amending canon in November.

“That decision-making process will be greatly assisted by all Synod members having first the opportunity in York for facilitated listening and engagement of the kind that the group has found so helpful in producing this report. To that end, we are grateful to the Business Committee for making space for this to take place on the Saturday of our July meeting.”

Notes to Editors:

From the above announcement, it seems that the Chair of the Committee, Bishop Nigel Stock, is hoping that the proposed new – ‘stream-lined’ – legislation that would allow women to become bishops in the Church of England would still provide – for those who do not believe women could become bishops – to be contained within the Church. Here is the evidence of that in the following statement:

‘Bishop Nigel continued: “Given this range of views it is essential to be clear on whether the Church of England is still willing to leave space for those who dissent from its decision. We have approached our task on the basis that the Church of England is so willing.” ‘

So, even before the matter goes to General Synod in July, the expectation of those who have explored the options in committee is that the Church of England will continue to provide ‘Provisional Episcopal Oversight’ from PEVs (Provisional Episcopal Visitors), chosen from among bishops of the Church who also do not believe that women can be bishops in that Church.

One wonders what sort of Church Order this will continue to perpetuate in the Church of England, and what  sort of ‘catholicity’, in terms of episcopal collegiality, will become entrenched within the ethos of the Mother Church of world-wide Anglicanism.

One had thought that any Anglican who could not see their way clear to accepting the ministry of women – whether as clergy or bishops – could have taken advantage of moving to another part of the Church that agrees with their understanding of Holy Orders. The Roman Catholic Church has already provided dissident Anglicans with a ‘safety mechanism’ for their delicate consciences on this matter, in the raising up of their ‘Ordinariate’ – where women’s ministry is not acceptable, and yet the members may still claim to have something of the Anglican Provenance – but subject to the rule of Rome .

We all might agree with the need to provide a breadth of theology in the Anglican Church,  but does that need to accommodate legislated discrimination against ministerial vocations among 50% of the members on account of their gender difference?


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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5 Responses to Latest Proposals on Women Bishops in Church of England

  1. John Sandeman says:

    kiwianglo, British reports suggest that the favoured option one would abolish the PEVs and not provide legislated arrangements for those unable to accept the ministry of women’s bishops.

    • kiwianglo says:

      I had thought so, John, but here is part of the communique text: “In addition, option one involves arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests being set out either in a declaration from the House of Bishops or in a new Act of Synod.” Do you not think this means some sort of accommodation for dissenters?

      • John Sandeman says:

        I think the report makes it clear they are not talking about legislation. Have a re-read and see what you think

  2. Having re-read this report, John, I am still puzzled about the true intentions of the House of Bishops, when – included in the proposition – is the implied intention to find some arrangement to ‘accommodate’ two widely-differing point of view on the validity of Women in Ministry in the Church of England. I would like to be persuaded that these two view-points could actually be accommodated – without endangering the traditional collegiality of the House of Bishops.

  3. Chris H. says:

    When I read it it sounds like there won’t be actual legislative accomodation. Just a “Trust us, we still want you and we’ll make room for you.” But without any actual means of doing so. Isn’t that what defeated it before a lack of specifics on accomodation? And now that the laity is fighting against evangelical bishops in the CoE, I don’t see how it will be possible.
    TEC did the same thing on women priests/bishops. When it first passed they said that individual dioceses could opt out and keep male only priests, but later General Convention passed a new resolution saying that any diocese without women priests had until the next meeting in 3 years to get some or at the very least have a plan in place to get some. No diocese in TEC is supposed to have only male priests now. And I can’t help thinking that driving that point home was why they chose Jefferts-Schori as Presiding Bishop. Her tenure in Nevada was not very successful. I expect once legislation for women bishops goes through in England, the first female archbishop will be chosen quickly to destroy all remaining resistance.

    The conservative watching this know well and good that without legislative accomodation, they will be forced out of the church in time. The “Honored place” is just a lie to keep them there until they succumb to the majority or die off.

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