Bishops look to woman priest to salvage women-bishops legislation
THE House of Bishops, meeting this week to rescue the
women-bishops legislation, has adopted an amendment suggested by a
The House met on Wednesday to find a way out of the impasse over
the legislation. In July, the General Synod declined to vote on the
final wording, after the House had inserted clause 5(1)(c), which
stated that the Code of Practice should cover "the selection of
male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is
consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration
of women" of the PCC in a traditionalist parish.
Opponents of women bishops quietly welcomed the clause, but many
supporters found it unacceptable, and threatened to vote against
the legislation if it remained. As a result, the final vote was
postponed until an extraordinary meeting of the General Synod in
November, giving the Bishops time to reconsider.
In a consultation exercise during the summer, there appeared to
have been no shift in the entrenched positions. Almost all the
preferences recorded favoured either the retention of 5(1)(c), or
its removal. None of the rewordings suggested by the steering
committee attracted any great interest.
But on Wednesday evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced
that the House of Bishops had voted to accept a new version of the
amendment submitted by the Revd Janet Appleby, Team Vicar in the
Willington Team and Vicar and Minister in the Church of the Good
Shepherd Local Ecumenical Project in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear.
It reads that the Code should cover "the selection of male
bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on
which Parochial Church Councils issue Letters of Request under
Letters of Request are the means whereby a traditionalist parish
asks for a new priest or for episcopal oversight by someone other
than the diocesan bishop.
Dr Williams said: "It is particularly significant and welcome
that the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but
rather from a serving woman priest."
The statement reported that Mrs Appleby's amendment had received
"overwhelming support from the House of Bishops in both their
discussions and in the final vote.
"In discussion the Bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new
text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with
parishes that it will promote."
Mrs Appleby said on Thursday that she had "come close to
despair" at the July Synod meeting. She had spent a lot of time,
she said, listening to a lot of people at the Synod, "even people I
disagree with vehemently - but that's life".
When the consultation was announced, at the end of July, she
consulted colleagues and friends, including those who oppose women
bishops. She then worked on a new wording with her husband, just
before going on holiday in early August.
"Nothing is going to please everybody; but something was needed
to show that women are valued in the Church, but so are those who,
in conscience, cannot accept their ministry.
"I would like to see women bishops, but I hope we can find a way
forward that also shows courtesy to those who disagree."
She said that she had been surprised to be named, and had
expected others to submit suggested amendments.
Dr Williams said that, in the view of the House of Bishops, the
revised text "expresses both our conviction of the need to see this
legislation passed, and our desire to honour the conscience and
contribution of those in the Church of England whose reservations
remain. . .
"I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England
to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep
hope that the legislation will pass in November."
Podcast: Archbishop speaks about women bishops draft