THE General Synod voted on Monday to send the draft
women-bishops Measure back to the House of Bishops, and not to
vote on final approval until November.
An adjournment motion, moved by the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd
Trevor Willmott, was carried by a two-thirds majority, after about
two-and-a-half hours of debate. The result was 288 in favour, 144
against, with 15 abstentions.
The adjournment motion stated that the debate on final approval
should be adjourned so that the House of Bishops could reconsider
its amendment to Clause 5 of the Measure. The amendment, with
regard to the selection of male bishops or priests for parishes
issuing a Letter of Request, requires guidance from the House of
Bishops on "ministry . . . consistent with the theological
convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women" which
were the basis of the request.
Shortly after the adjournment vote, the Archbishop of York, Dr
Sentamu, told the Synod that the House of Bishops would meet on 12
and 13 September to review the amendments it had made to the
legislation. The Synod will meet in November to vote on final
approval. A notice paper to Synod members estimated that the cost
of the November sitting would be between £200,000 and £210,000.
The Synod had been scheduled to vote on final approval on
Monday. On Sunday afternoon, the steering committee indicated that
it would ask the Synod to postpone the historic vote, so that the
House of Bishops could reconsider the amendment to Clause 5.
On Monday morning, shortly after the chairman of the steering
committee, the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch,
moved the final approval motion, Bishop Willmott moved his
Bishop Willmott said that the amendment to Clause 5 had "caused
widespread dismay among many of those who have supported the
Measure up till now. . . Many who have previously voted for the
Measure have now said that they could no longer vote for it in its
He acknowledged that the Bishops would need to "weigh very
carefully" the impact that removing or amending the new clause
would have on those "for whom it was a welcome acknowledgment of
their own position", and suggested that a revised illustrative Code
of Practice should be published alongside revised draft
In a ten-minute contribution to the debate on the adjournment
motion, the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to explain "what was in
the minds of the House of Bishops" when it voted for the
"controversial" amendment to Clause 5. This action came, he said
from the "very deep desire" of the "overwhelming majority" that the
Measure should be carried "confidently".
Dr Williams said that the Bishops had diagnosed "unfinished
business". They were not convinced that it would be carried.
This was not because they had been "got at", but because of their
reading of their own diocesan situations and the views of their
diocesan representatives at Synod. There was a danger that the
Measure could be seen as accommodating "sheer prejudice" or
"unthinking conservatism", which would be "offensive to women at
least as profoundly as what has been suggested as an
Bishops had "underrated" the sense of hurt and offence caused by
the amendments, and would need to "feel appropriate penitence that
they did not recognise that".
Dr Williams warned, however, that an adjournment was "not a
panacea". He did not feel, himself, "convinced that we were
wrong in the wording we selected"; but that was "a conviction that
needs to be tested and discussed".
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, gave
Synod a warning. He said that there was "no way that I am going to
be able to explain to the [House of] Commons that when this Church
had voted by 42 dioceses to two, it was not possible for the Synod
to manage to develop a Measure which commands the support of the
whole Synod; and in particular commands the support of those who
campaign for such a Measure."
He also warned that the outcome might influence arguments about
bishops in the House of Lords. And on Tuesday, Chris Bryant MP
tabled a series of amendments to the House of Lords Reform Bill,
which sought to remove the Bishops from a reformed Second Chamber
because of their actions over women bishops. Writing in The
Independent last Friday, Mr Bryant complained of the
"episcopal jiggery-pokery" over the draft Measure, which was
causing "apartheid in the Church". Immediately after the
adjournment motion was carried, WATCH issued a statement expressing
relief. The group's chair, the Revd Rachel Weir, said that she
hoped there would be "a thorough consultation process over the
summer, so that whatever is presented to General Synod in November
keeps faith with the dioceses that voted overwhelmingly for the
Traditionalists expressed disappointment at the adjournment. The
Catholic Group in General Synod said that it called "into question
the commitment of the Church of England to provide for the
religious convictions of all her loyal members".
Forward in Faith called upon the House of Bishops "to stand firm
in the face of unwarranted pressure, and to return the draft
Measure to the Synod in a form which will provide for the future of
traditional Catholics and conservative Evangelicals".
Prebendary Rod Thomas, the chairman of Reform, the conservative
Evangelical group, said: "We stand ready to co-operate to find a
solution if there is a genuine desire to see a permanent place . .
. for those who on theological grounds cannot accept women as
The Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway, said that the
Church needed "time for further reflection and round-table
discussion to find another form of words for Clause 5(1)(c)", but
without "intensifying any sense of discrimination".
A joint statement from the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd
Donald Allister, and the Bishop of Brixworth, the Rt Revd John
Holbrook, expressed disappointment. "We understand the concerns of
those who in conscience cannot accept the sacramental and episcopal
ministry of women for theological reasons, but believe that the
proposed Measure does provide sufficient safeguard of their
A poll of 2117 adults, carried out by ComRes between 4 and 5
July, found that 74 per cent of respondents believe that women
should be allowed to become bishops; 12 per cent think that they
should not; and 15 per cent do not know.