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Campaigners attack revision ‘charade’

04 November 2009

by Pat Ashworth

THE DECISION of the revision committee not to follow the General Synod’s earlier rejection of statutory protection for opponents of women bishops (News, 16 October) has provoked an unprecedented response from “normally quiet and patient members of the Church of England”, says the campaigning group Women and the Church (WATCH).

The revision committee, charged with the task of finding a way forward, has reverted to a statutory opt-out to cover some episcopal functions. WATCH has long protested against a “two-tier episcopate”. A statement this week, timed to coincide with a further meeting of the revision committee, declares: “Enough is enough.” It describes the revision process as a “charade” that has evoked “widespread shock among Church members, not to mention disbelief and derision from the wider society”.

WATCH asks the revision committee to think again, and to bring to the February Synod “the legislation it was asked to bring”. Christina Rees, who chairs WATCH, said the outcry had been unpre­cedented. “People are interested in bishops, whether male or female, who have a heart for the priests and people in their dioceses.

“They do not want to see the historic episcopate of the Church of England destroyed in order to appease less than two per cent of clergy who do not believe women should be ordained.” The “over­whelming will of the Church had been tested repeatedly”, she said.

Affirming Catholicism has also written to individual members of the revision committee. It suggests that vesting certain functions in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop runs counter to the principle that the diocese is the fundamental unit of the Church.

It argues: “We believe that the removal of certain functions by statute from women who are consecrated bishops can carry no other inference than that it is legitimate to deny that they are truly ordained.” It asks the revision committee to reconsider its decision.

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