CONSULTATIONS over women bishops have
been progressing slowly, it emerged this week.
Legislation to permit women to enter
the episcopate is due to return to the General Synod at an
extraordinary meeting in November. Before then, the House of
Bishops has to decide what provision for traditionalists it will
put in the final draft legislation, if any.
Last month (
News, 27 July), the steering committee proposed seven possible
options in relation to clause 5(1)(c), the amendment inserted into
the legislation by the House of Bishops in May, which prompted
angry protests and led to the adjournment of a final decision when
the General Synod met in York earlier in July.
Today is the deadline for responses to
a consultation document about the options, which was circulated to
Synod members by the secretary-general, William Fittall.
By Wednesday, only about one member in
ten had responded. The General Synod Office reported "more than 50"
submissions, the "great majority" from Synod members, but also some
"from individuals and others from groups". There are 477 Synod
Such a low response will make it
difficult for the House of Bishops to ascertain the mind of the
Synod when it meets to discuss the Measure on 12 September,
although several dioceses are planning their own consultations
This week, Synod members expressed
preferences for four of the seven options.
Keith Malcouronne (Guildford) said
that the diocese's representatives had met earlier in the month and
had "collectively recognised that Option 2", simply deleting clause
5(1)(c), "was a non-starter if we wish to see the legislation
finally approved in November".
A majority of the diocesan
representatives favoured Option 1 (retaining the clause) "as
providing the most provision of the options now open at this late
stage of the process", he said. He cited the speech by the
Archbishop of Canterbury in July, in which Dr Williams explained
that referring solely to the maleness of the bishop and no other
criteria could suggest a willingness to accommodate misogny. Mr
Malcouronne, and others within the diocese, have suggested
The Archdeacon of Nottingham, the Ven.
Peter Hill (Southwell & Nottingham), said that the Bishop had
arranged to meet representatives in late August to discuss the
paper. Archdeacon Hill was "desperate to see women in the
episcopate as soon as possible, but also to keep everyone on the C
of E bus in some sort of comfortable seat". He believed that Option
7, which suggests that the Code of Practice would give guidance on
the procedure of selection, is "the most deliverable route
politically . . . largely because it knocks out theological
conviction in favour of pastoral and sacramental practice".
Christina Rees (St Albans), who
formerly chaired the campaign group WATCH, said that a meeting with
her diocesan was planned for 4 September. Her preference was Option
2, deleting 5(1)(c). The clause "opens the door to endless
wrangling", and "puts a very dark cloud over women's
A "silver bullet" could not be found,
she suggested, because there is "nothing that can bridge the gap
between those who think either women shouldn't or cannot be
ordained . . . with the views of people who say 'of course women
can be ordained'."
Option 2 is also favoured by GRAS. On
Monday of last week, it warned: "The Church of England risks
finding itself in a position where people who long to see women and
men as bishops together will vote against the Measure, because the
compromises it makes would be too damaging to the Church and to our
theology of the place of men and women in creation."
A Chester Synod member, Canon David
Felix, expressed unhappiness that no meeting had been convened with
his diocesan bishop. He said that the introduction of 5(1)(c)
constituted a "constitutional crisis". The adjournment in July had
given the Bishops a "bloody nose", but "they still can't accept the
bloody nose they have been given." Not producing a code of practice
until the legislation was decided was "politically . . . a
The Canon Chancellor of Exeter
Cathedral, the Revd Andrew Godsall (Exeter), said that he had
invited all General Synod representatives, including the Bishop, to
a meeting in early September. There was a "real willingness from
people to speak across different traditions", he said.
As a member of WATCH, his preference
was for Option 2; but he also had a "certain amount of sympathy"
for Option 5, which would build into the provision a reference to
the "suitability" or "appropriateness" of the person selected to
exercise ministry. It would also refer to the process of selection,
involving consultation with the PCC. He is "very optimistic" about
the Measure's being passed - "but not at any price".
Emma Forward (Exeter) supported Option
1. "We should ask the Bishops to stand firm on clause 5(1)(c),
especially the understanding of 'theological convictions' contained
within it. Surely we all want an outcome that will honour those of
a traditional integrity, so that future generations can thrive. The
Church of England is always better together."