CAMPAIGNERS for women bishops cautiously welcomed the amendment
made to the draft legislation by the House of Bishops on Wednesday
of last week. Traditionalist and conservative Evangelical groups
expressed concern about the amendment.
The "Appleby amendment" was suggested by the Revd Janet
Appleby, a Team Vicar in the Willington Team Ministry, and Vicar
and Minister in the Church of the Good Shepherd Local Ecumenical
Project in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear; and it won "overwhelming
support" from the House of Bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury
said on Wednesday. The House welcomed "the simplicity of the new
text, its emphasis on respect, and the process of dialogue with
parishes that it will promote".
The wording states that the Code of Practice attached to the
Measure should cover "the selection of male bishops and male
priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which Parochial
Church Councils issue Letters of Request under section 3".
Letters of Request are the means whereby a parish could ask for a
male priest or for episcopal oversight by someone other than the
This is an amendment to Clause 5(1)(c), inserted by the House of
Bishops in May, which stated that the Code of Practice should cover
"the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of
ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as
to the consecration of women" of the PCC in a traditionalist
parish. It was after much debate about this wording that the
General Synod referred the draft Measure back to the Bishops in
On Monday, a letter to the House of Bishops from 17 senior women
clergy said that the new wording "addresses enough of our concerns
to enable us to encourage General Synod to vote for the final
approval of the Measure".
WATCH, which campaigns for women bishops, said on Wednesday
of last week that it was "pleased" that the House of Bishops had
"listened to the anxieties" voiced about 5(1)(c), but
"disappointed" that the House of Bishops "did not feel able" to
withdraw it completely. WATCH is now consulting its members on the
On Monday, the Catholic Group in the General Synod said that it
was grateful to the House of Bishops for "retaining the lifebelts
in Clause 5(1)(c)" but "concerned that they have let some of the
air out of them by reducing 'is consistent with' to 'respects'".
The Group "continues to have grave doubts about the seaworthiness
of this ship [the Measure] and the reduction in the effectiveness
of the lifebelts gives it less confidence in the proposed
Forward in Faith, a traditionalist group, said on Sunday that
its members could take "some comfort" from the decision not to
delete 5(1)(c) altogether, and welcomed the language of "respect"
in the revised wording, which "indicates that the
theological convictions held by traditional Catholics and orthodox
Evangelicals on this disputed question continue to occupy an
authentic and honourable place in Anglican teaching and practice".
The Code of Practice would now assume "huge significance".
The chairman of the conservative Evangelical network Reform, the
Revd Rod Thomas, said on Wednesday that Reform was "deeply
disappointed" that Clause 5(1)(c) had "been weakened to the point
where any additional provision it may have offered for conservative
Evangelicals has been removed". Reform will consider its next step
at its national conference next week, he said.
The General Synod will vote on the amended Measure in
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill, told BBC
Radio Stoke on Sunday that the result "may be touch and go", given
the composition of the Synod: "You get more activists and fewer
middle-of-the-road people on any council - and it's the danger that
we get the really enthusiastic people who are against from several
different points of view."
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, wrote on his
blog last Friday: "Being pragmatic, this probably means that we
will need all supporters of women bishops to vote for the Measure
and as many opponents as possible to abstain rather than vote
After announcing the amendment last week, Dr Williams said: "I
am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be
blessed by the ministry of women as bishops, and it is my deep hope
that the legislation will pass in November."
He said that it was "particularly significant and welcome that
the new text emerged not from the House of Bishops itself but
rather from a serving woman priest".
Mrs Appleby said on Thursday of last week that she had "come
close to despair" at the July Synod meeting. She had spent a lot of
time, she said, listening to a lot of people at the Synod, "even
people I disagree with vehemently - but that's life."
When the consultation on the future of Clause 5(1)(c) was
announced, at the end of July, she consulted colleagues and
friends, including those who oppose women bishops. She then worked
on a new wording with her husband, just before going on holiday in
"Nothing is going to please everybody; but something was needed
to show that women are valued in the Church, but so are those who,
in conscience, cannot accept their ministry.
"I would like to see women bishops, but I hope we can find a way
forward that also shows courtesy to those who disagree."