A MOVE by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to soften the women-bishops legislation, rejected by the General Synod in July last year, might return to the Synod next February.
The Catholic Group in Synod said on Tuesday that it was likely that the Synod would be invited to debate in February a motion “calling on the House of Bishops to exercise its powers to amend the Measure in the manner of the amendment jointly proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York”.
The Archbishops’ amendment had sought to establish bishops acceptable to traditionalists whose authority was derived from the legisla-tion — not delegated from the diocesan bishop, who might be a woman, as is proposed in the main Measure. Although it was defeated narrowly in the House of Clergy, it nevertheless achieved an overall majority.
The Catholic Group points out that 40 per cent of the members of the present Synod are new, elected after the July 2010 vote. “It is vital that they have the opportunity to consider these issues properly before the Synod comes to the Final Approval vote in July 2012.”
Canon Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group, said: “Final Approval of the current draft Women Bishops legislation is not a foregone conclusion.” The group takes heart from the fact that, during the diocesan voting on the women-bishops legislation, almost one quarter indicated a wish for “proper provision” for traditionalists. The final legislation needs to pass by a two-thirds majority.
Canon Killwick spoke of a “modest amendment” to the legislation, which would secure its safe passage and avoid failure at final approval in July 2012, “which would delay the introduction of women bishops for many years to come”.
In February, the Synod will also have the opportunity for the first time to consider the code of practice governing how the legislation is to be implemented.
The pro-women-bishops group Women and The Church (WATCH) has disputed the Catholic Group’s interpretation of the diocesan voting. “Thirty-three dioceses explicitly rejected requests for more provision [for traditionalists] and would no doubt reject legislation amended in this way. . . It would be very puzzling for the House of Bishops to amend the legislation in the face of such overwhelming endorsement from the Church at large.”
WATCH has analysed the voting figures from the dioceses, and reports that, overall, 85 per cent of bishops, 76 per cent of clergy, and 77 per cent of laity approved the present legislation.
WATCH also rejected the idea of reintroducing the Archbishops’ amendment. “We do not see how it can be supported when it undermines episcopacy as the Church of England has always viewed it. . . We are sure no senior woman would accept being a bishop under those conditions.”