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Women bishops

21 September 2012

A CONSULTATION conducted earlier this year suggested that a majority of members of the Governing Body (GB) were in favour of women bishops, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said.

"Seventy-nine per cent of lay members and 83 per cent of clerical members indicated either strong or broad support for legislation being brought forward to enable women to be ordained as bishops. The bishops were 100 per cent behind that," he said.

"There is significant support for some form of provision for the protection of individual conscience, and it means that, if this is not protected in some way, people will not feel able to vote for the legislation; but there is little support for structural or parochial opt-outs."

The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, said that the Bishops wanted to bring forward a Measure to permit women to be ordained as bishops; but that this would not take effect until a second Measure, dealing with individual conscience, was passed.

Canon Peter Williams (Swansea & Brecon) questioned the wisdom of such a move, saying that theory and practice must go together.

Kathryn Hall (St Asaph) said that she had difficulty with the term "conscientiously object". It was subjective. She was "struggling to accept that objections aren't merely a matter of prejudice".

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, said that respect for individual conscience was a "hugely important principle", and a matter of "great personal integrity". "But what conscience doesn't require is that the majority changes what it believes to be the right way forward, or the right rule, just because some, in conscience, would find it difficult."

The Rt Revd David Wilbourne, Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Llandaff, recalled the story of David, who broke the impasse between Goliath and the Israelites. He said: "Today we face an impasse seemingly as impossible to reconcile as that faced by David. The stone I'd like to fire at each and every one of us, including me, is a stone called grace."

Dr Gillian Todd (Co-opted, Swansea & Brecon) said that those "who can't, in all conscience, accept the ordination of women . . . have a harder job than the rest of us, because they have to live in a Church working alongside women, which challenges their conscience." She said that it was a joy to see such people work together with women colleagues.

Canon George Bennett (Swansea & Brecon) said that "those of us who think deeply and treasure the Catholic and apostolic tradition of the Church in Wales would pause and pray and wonder; because it isn't just a matter of human resources, but divine resources. The episcopate is a gift God has given to his Church."

The deputy chairman of the Representative Body, James Turner (St Asaph), welcomed the two-stage proposal.

The Revd Hadyn England-Simon (Llandaff) said that the Church's first step had to be formally to accept the principle of women bishops; but that it also "had a duty to support and not to ignore" those who, in conscience, could not support this matter. "Dealing with these matters separately and sequentially gives sufficient weight to the two key issues," he said.

There was no motion to vote on; but Dr Morgan asked for an "indicative non-binding show of hands" to guide the bishops. About 80 to 85 were in favour of the proposed approach; 15 to 20 were against.

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