New hope for traditionalists

24 November 2011

by a staff reporter

Feeling the heat: Synod members listen to the women bishops debate in July, last year SAM ATKINS

Feeling the heat: Synod members listen to the women bishops debate in July, last year ...

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.”


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