NEW legislation to enable women to become bishops will be
presented to the General Synod in July, the House of Bishops
announced on Tuesday, after a two-day meeting at Lambeth
The Archbishops will set up a working group, drawn from all
three Houses of Synod, its membership to be announced before
Christmas. This group will arrange "facilitated discussion with a
wide range of people with a variety of views" in the week of 4
February, when the General Synod was to have met.
Immediately after these discussions, the House of Bishops will
meet and the elements of a new legislative package are expected to
be decided at its meeting in May, in readiness for the July
The Bishops reckon that, "for such proposals to command assent",
they will need to offer "greater simplicity", but also a "clear
embodiment of the principle articulated by the 1998 Lambeth
Conference that those who dissent from, as well as those who assent
to, the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate are
both loyal Anglicans". There was also a need for a "broadly based
measure of agreement about the shape of the legislation in advance
of the beginning of the actual legislative process".
On Tuesday night, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen
Cottrell, said: "Finding a new way forward won't be easy, but we
are determined to take a lead, and to do all that we can to offset
the further missional damage that delay will inevitably bring."
One of the "many ironies of our current situation" was that "the
House of Bishops has never been so united on this issue," he
On Wednesday, the Catholic Group in the General Synod welcomed
the House of Bishops' "roadmap for peace. . . We stand fully ready
to assist in the process of agreeing fresh legislation to provide
for the religious convictions of all loyal Anglicans." The Group
asked that women "who do not support the consecration of women
bishops" contribute to the discussions.
The Bishops' meeting was attended by the Dean of York, the Very
Revd Vivienne Faull; the Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich,
the Ven. Christine Hardman; Dr Paula Gooder; and Margaret Swinson,
all of whom served on the steering committee or revision committee
for the legislation that fell in November.
On Wednesday, the Revd Rosemary Lain-Priestley, who chairs the
National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women Ministries, said
that it was "essential that everyone involved engages fully with
the process between now and the July Synod in a spirit of hope".
But she found it "very difficult" to imagine a "different way
forward", given her belief that the "best possible compromise was
on the table in November".
She was "really pleased" by the proposed meeting with lay and
ordained women to discuss how they might contribute to the House of
The Bishops' statement also included plans to hold an event
early in 2013 to discuss with a "larger number of lay and ordained
women . . . questions about the culture of the House [of Bishops']
processes and discussions, and how women might more regularly
On Wednesday, Dean Faull, said that it was misleading to think
of a one-off "event" with women in 2013. "Prayerful thought" was
being given to "not just how women might be included, in terms of
being present, but how their voices might be heard - and how their
presence might change what I think many bishops regard as really
quite a fixed, and probably somewhat outmoded, culture in the
There was "virtually nowhere else in the country where you have
an all-male group", she said. "Life is not like that in the world
any more. It feels very strange now to most existing bishops."
After the failure of the earlier Measure, Diana Johnson MP
tabled an urgent question in the Commons, arguing: "It is
imperative that those in the all-male group of bishops do not talk
just to one another, but work with and alongside senior women in
the Church to find a way forward."
She said on Tuesday that she felt "really strongly" that
Parliament had a part to play in moving the issue of women bishops
"It is much better if the Church of England can sort itself out,
but it also right and proper that Parliament makes it views clear
and tries to assist the Church," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, a debate took place in the House of
Commons, brought to the floor by Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for
Exeter, who is a patron of the Group for Rescinding the Act of
He said that, given that Parliament must approve legislation by
the Church of England, MPs "don't have a choice" but to discuss
women bishops. "This is not Parliament wishing to or relishing
intervening in church affairs, but priests and lay people in the
Church pleading with us to do so."
Letters he had received from clergy included requests for
Parliament to "remove the Church's exemption from equality laws",
put in place a moratorium on all new appointments of bishops, or
amend canon law.
Mr Bradshaw believed that a fresh Measure might be handicapped
by containing too many "safeguards", deemed to be "inconsistent
with widely accepted views on equality".
He said on Tuesday: "I am all for proper provision being made
for the opponents of women bishops, but they seem to want even more
safeguards, whereas the majority feel that what has been offered
goes far enough. . .
"They may have lost their last chance of getting reasonable
safeguards, because the tide of opinion now seems to be 'Let's just
have a simple Measure and pastoral voluntary organisation along the
same lines as exists in all the rest of the Anglican Communion
where they have women bishops.' The opponents have, I fear,
overplayed their hand very badly."
On Monday, it was confirmed that a motion of no confidence in
the Chair of the House of Laity, Dr Philip Giddings (
News, 7 December), will be proposed on 18 January at Church
December: Archbishops announce members of
women-bishops working group.
early 2013: House of Bishops to meet with lay
and ordained women to discuss how women might contribute to its
4 February: Working group to hold discussions
with "wide range of people";
House of Bishops to meet to review outcome of discussions.
May: House of Bishops meets again to agree
elements of new legislative package.
July: New legislative package presented to