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As Synod vote nears, both sides slug it out online and in print

16 November 2012

"For church unity": Pete Myers, a Church Society Council member, appeals to Synod members on YouTube to vote against the Measure

"For church unity": Pete Myers, a Church Society Council member, appeals to Synod members on YouTube to vote against the Measure

WITH days to go until the General Synod votes on final approval of the Measure to ordain women as bishops, opponents and supporters are attempting to win over undecided members online.

Last Friday, the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate urged the Synod to approve the Measure, while paying tribute to the "remarkable signs of God's grace and action" in those who could not accept the ordained ministry of women.

In a briefing on the history of the Measure issued on Tuesday, the campaigning group WATCH (Women and the Church) said that it had chosen to support it in its latest iteration "as an act of generosity to those who would like to stay in the Church of England, but are not yet convinced about the rightness of having women as priests or bishops".

In response to a booklet opposing the Measure, circulated to all members of the General Synod by the chairmen of the Catholic Group and Reform ( News, 9 November), the blogger Church Mouse argued that the reference in the Measure to the need for the selection of bishops to "respect" the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request was "probably the single word about which most clarity has been provided. It has a specific legal definition and, in short, is legally binding."

The blog also argues that the Code of Practice that will accompany the Measure can be enforced. It suggests that the claim in the booklet that the Measure "does not reflect what the Bible teaches about the equality of men and women" is "rather interesting", given that the authors are "radically at odds on the point". The "vast majority" of bishops and theologians have agreed that there is a "sound theological backing" for women bishops, it argues.

On Tuesday, the Progressive Christianity Network said of the Church of England: "We long to see the fullest equality in its ministry. . . We see this [the Measure] as a way to further nourish in our nation a way of applying the vision and examples of Jesus in our time."

Opponents of the Measure also took to the internet to express their arguments. The Church Society has released a YouTube video appealing to Synod members to vote against the Measure "for the sake of church unity". The Revd Pam Davies, Assistant Curate of St Margaret with St Michael, Berechurch, in Colchester, said: "I am concerned about how the Church is going about this debate. It is ripping the heart out of God's Church, and we are acting from a worldly perspective, not a Christ-like perspective. I am so grateful to Pete for a good balanced presentation of why we should vote 'no' on women bishops."

A number of papers opposing the Measure have been published on the website Fair Measure 2012, set up to convey the argument that the draft legislation "must be replaced with a new, fairer Measure which enables us all to go forward together".

Tom Sutcliffe, a member of the House of Laity for the diocese of Southwark, who voted for women priests in 1992, and is "keen in principle" that women be ordained as bishops, said that he would be voting against the Measure. It was "simply not true" that appropriate provisions had been made for those who could not support the development, particularly conservative Evangelicals, who would be "in an impossible position". He argued that the ordination of women had failed to increase the membership or effectiveness of the Church, "however good most women priests have been".

On Friday, a letter was published in The Times  from the chairmen of the Catholic Group in General Synod, Canon Simon Killwick, and of Reform, Prebendary Rod Thomas. It carried a further 325 signatures, all from clerics.

The letter said: "We believe that our future ministries will be severely prejudiced if the General Synod votes to approve the draft Measure. . .

"We accept that there is a majority desire to introduce women bishops, but we are also very conscious that the minority in disagreement is far from insignificant. We had hoped for compromise - but the provision being made for us in the draft Measure comes nowhere near what we need.

"We are told that if Synod does not pass the draft Measure it will impair the mission of the Church. However, approving the draft Measure will do much more harm in the long term and will lead irrevocably to deep fractures appearing within the Church. We urge Synod to avoid this by voting not to approve the draft Measure."


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