by Madeleine Davies – Church Times – Posted: 24 Oct 2014 @ 12:37
Reflection: Holy Trinity, Hull
MEMBERS of Parliament competed to have the first woman bishop appointed in their constituency, as the House of Commons passed the Bishop and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure on Monday.
The debate marked the end of the Measure’s parliamentary journey. It is now set to receive Royal Assent before being promulged at the General Synod in November.
The MP for Kingston upon Hull North, Diana Johnson, put in “an early bid”, describing the bishopric as “an ideal starting-place for the first woman bishop in the House of Lords”. The MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, then suggested that the Church should not miss the “fantastic opportunity” to appoint a woman in his constituency.
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said that there was “some competition from around the country”, and he referred to the imminent vacancy in the see of Oxford.
MPs who spoke on Monday welcomed the Measure. Frank Field suggested that being able to choose from both sexes would “strengthen our [the C of E’s] hand”. In 2012, he suggested that the talent among bishops was “at such a low ebb” that the CNC had had to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury “who had hardly got his bishop’s cassock on”.
Traditionalists were represented by Robert Neill, who spoke of the “generous” approach of Anglo-Catholics, and the desire to avoid undermining dialogue with “our Catholic and Orthodox brethren”. The Church was committed to providing a place for traditionalists, Sir Tony said, “without a limited time”. Ms Johnson later asked whether such a limit might be considered.
Helen Goodman emphasised that “it is not for Parliament, or politicians, or even the Government, to lay down the theological grounding”; but Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, argued that “We . . . should have forced this change through far earlier.” He asked “all bishops, whether flying bishops or not, to ask every parish that went for Resolution A and B to reconsider”.
Ben Bradshaw suggested that the response of Parliament to the “terrible vote” at the General Synod in November 2012 had “really made a difference”.
Sir Tony reiterated the commitment to introducing a Bill to fast-track women bishops into the Lords, and hoped that it could take place in this parliamentary session.
AFTER promulgation of the new canon at the General Synod on 17 November, each vacancy for a a diocesan or suffragan bishop will be open to women.
A Church House spokesman confirmed on Tuesday that this would include diocesan appointments in Southwell & Nottingham, Gloucester, Oxford, and Newcastle.
Six suffragan sees are vacant, but, as the diocesan bishop takes the lead on the appointments processes, it is not clear how many of these will still await an appointment after 17 November.
A spokesman for the diocese of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, John Howard, said that a woman could be considered for the see of Dunwich.
The dioceses of Chester and St Albans declined to comment.
This report for the U.K.-based ‘Church Times, by correspondent Madelaine Davies, was written before the Queen confirmed the Measure for the Ordination of Women Bishops in the Church of England by the Royal Assent. The Measure will no be officially promulged at the next session of the general Synod on November 17th, 2014.
The measure of support for Women bishops can be assessed by the enthusiasm of those dioceses that have expressed a desire to welcome a Woman Bishop into their territory. It will be interesting to see who will be the first Woman priest to become a bishop in the Church of England, and how long it will take for Women Bishops to be seated in the House of Lords along with their male colleagues.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand