GENERAL SYNOD members whose vote was pivotal in the defeat of
the women-bishops Measure last November are holding their counsel,
as they prepare for private discussions this weekend before a
crucial vote on Monday.
Last year, eight members of the House of Laity wrote to The
Times revealing that 12 of the members of the House had voted
against the November Measure "in spite of most of us unreservedly
supporting the consecration of women" (
News, 30 November). Several of these, contacted by the
Church Times, declined to comment this week, saying that
they first wanted to hear from others at the Synod meeting in
Two, though, were willing to share their views on Option One,
selected by the House of Bishops from the four possible options
mapped out by the working group on women bishops (
News, 31 May). A Measure instructing the steering committee to
prepare draft legislation based on this option will be debated on
Monday. The legislation would amend the canon that makes it
unlawful for women to become bishops, and repeal the statutory
rights that traditionalist parishes have to pass Resolutions A and
On Tuesday, Keith Malcouronne, of Guildford diocese, one of the
Times signatories, said: "I'm concerned that the House of
Bishops has not really learned from what happened the last time.
They are setting themselves up for failure before they start. They
should have started with something where we could take a vote on
each option. . .
"They are saying all the right things about maintaining
diversity and the equal standing of those of different views, but
the mechanism they are adopting does not seem to permit the Church
to come to a collective view or compromise around that."
Another signatory, John Davies, of Winchester diocese, said: "My
heart is full of dread because I want to see women bishops as soon
as possible; but I do not think Option One is likely to take it
Concern that Option One will not win the support of those
opposed to women's ordination appears to be well-founded. Prudence
Dailey, of Oxford diocese, said: "Anything that relies on trust
rather than legislative provision is going to be a bit of a
non-starter. It's not that we intrinsically mistrust other people
in the Church: it is just that we recognise human nature."
Susie Leafe, the new director of Reform, (News, 28
June) said: "If we vote for this, I think people have to know
they are voting for a less broad Church of England." She said that
it would leave the Church vulnerable to legal claims from secular
authorities under the Equality Act.
Option One commands strong support from among other members of
the Synod. Canon Rosie Harper, Chaplain to the Bishop of
Buckingham, was "absolutely delighted" by it, she said. "It is open
and honest and really offers a very hopeful way forward. It is
something that would resonate very well in the country at
"We have to keep a very clear eye on the fact it was a complete
train crash last time. . . I think it demands a very high level of
trust from everyone involved."
She said that some members she had spoken to after the November
vote had said that they would not have voted against the Measure
had they known that this would cause it to fall.
Dr Elaine Storkey, of Ely diocese, said on Wednesday: "Option
One is just clear, and that is what was missing in November. . . It
makes it absolutely clear that there is one and only one position
in the Church of England: that women and men will be bishops. . .
We asked the bishops to take a lead; they have taken a lead."
Dr Storkey argued that there was an "enormous amount of trust"
in the Church of England. Her experience on the Crown Nominations
Commission had taught her this: "I have had to abandon my own
presumptions, presuppositions, or desires in order to meet the
greater good, and to trust that this person, when in post, will
work amicably and constructively with people around him. I have not
ever regretted that." Those who disagreed about trust were "usually
not talking to other people, not listening to other views".
Both supporters and opponents of Option One welcomed the
opportunity to engage in facilitated discussions on Saturday.
Mrs Leafe said: "From my experience of being involved in
facilitated talks, it is a great opportunity to hear from one
another and to seek to understand one another's perspectives. I
hope that that will be how it will be used."
The Archdeacon of Hackney, the Ven. Rachel Treweek, said on
Wednesday: "I am relieved that, at long last, we have the
opportunity for Synod members to meet together in a different
"My hope is that we might experience more of what the Church
could be as we meet together in a place of robust conversation. The
focus is not about persuasion or agreement: it is about speaking
confidently from the heart of who we each are in Christ, and
listening with humility to others."
The Vicar of St Thomas's, Blackpool, the Revd Dr Rosalyn Murphy,
said: "The process has been tortuous - experiencing threatening
behaviour from colleagues, enduring the harsh words spoken, all the
while having the integrity of female priesthood minimised. I
realise there has been hurt, pain, fear, and frustration on both
sides. Unfortunately, that is the process.
"However, I genuinely believe that our unity as the body of
Christ is of such significant value that it is worthy of
preserving. So perhaps on Saturday, if we truly listen to each
other with our hearts, it is possible that the love of Christ will
persuade us all to trust him, and his ability to protect and
preserve his Church."