The House of Bishops of the Church of England has today welcomed eight women as participant observers to its meetings. The welcome follows the election of the eight senior women clergy from regions across the country.
In February of this year the House decided that until such time as there are six female members of the House, following the admission of women to the episcopate, a number of senior women clergy should be given the right to attend and speak at meetings of the House as participant observers. The necessary change to the House’s Standing Orders were made in May.
Elections for the eight senior women clergy were held in autumn of this year and the following were elected:
- East Midlands – Ven Christine Wilson, Archdeacon of Chesterfield
- West Midlands – Revd Preb. Dr Jane Tillier, Preb of Lichfield Cathedral
- East Anglia – Ven Annette Cooper, Archdeacon of Colchester
- South and Central – Ven Joanne Grenfell, Archdeacon of Portsdown
- South East region – Ven Rachel Treweek, Archdeacon of Hackney
- South West region – Ven Nicola Sullivan, Archdeacon of Wells
- North East Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of York
- North West – The Rev Libby Lane, Dean of Women in Ministry, Chester Diocese
Having taken up their role on 1st December, the two day meeting of the House of Bishops in York on December 9-10 will be the first meeting at which the participant observers will attend.
Notes to Editors:
More information on the role and work of the House of Bishops can be found here: http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/structure/general-synod/about-general-synod/house-of-bishops.aspx
Just a short time ago, here in Christchurch, New Zealand, my wife, Diana and I hosted a prominent member of the U.K. organisation working towards the Ordination of women as Bishops in the Church of England, ‘ WATCH’ (Woman and the Church). We still have the tea-towel she left with us which contained the following message:
A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS
I offered the tea-towel to our Bishop Victoria, a strong female presence among the Bishops of ACANZP and Bishop of our diocese of Christchurch. However, she assured me she already has one (Been there – got the tee-shirt?). Bishop Victoria has borne the heat and burden of the day as far as women in the episcopate of the Anglican Communion is concerned. After being twice in the running for Primate in the Anglican Church of Canada, she graciously agreed to accept the invitation to head this diocese of our Church in New Zealand. She has since become a member of the Anglican Communion Faith and Order Commission.
Whatever happens about the future of the Vote on Women Bishops in the Church of England, this opening up of future meetings of the House of Bishops to eight of that Church’s most capable women clergy (‘Until such time as women are appointed Bishops in the C. of E.”) must be good for the morale of those women clergy who are faithfully carrying out the role of priest and pastor in places where their spiritual and practical gifts are already appreciated by the rank and file of Church membership.
One can only hope that these eight women will be carefully listened to and taken notice of by the male bishops, whose ranks may be gentled and strengthened by their wisdom.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand