PRESSURE is growing to halt the final-approval stage of the
women-bishops legislation, which is scheduled to take place next
weekend when the General Synod meets in York.
Instead, supporters of the
legislation, angered by two amendments made by the House of
Bishops in May (News, 25 May),
are urging the Synod to refer it back to the Bishops (News, 15 June).
Speaking last weekend to a gathering
of students at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury likened
the C of E's position to "one of those terrible games you get in
Christmas crackers sometimes, where you have to get the little
silver balls into holes. You always get two of them in, but the
other one goes off somewhere else."
This week, a group of senior women
clergy, including nine archdeacons and four deans, wrote to Synod
members expressing their "deep dismay" at the introduction of one
of the amendments, which would allow parishes to choose a priest
and bishop who exercise their ministry in a way that is "consistent
with the theological convictions" of the PCC with regards to
women's ministry. They write that this amendment "undermines women
so profoundly that we are now unable to support the Measure.
"We recognise that bishops voted in
favour of this amendment in good faith, believing that further
assurances for those unable to accept the ministry of ordained
women would help secure the Measure's passing.
"However, with the introduction of
this clause the Measure is likely to be defeated. It is therefore
our hope that the General Synod will adjourn the debate in July,
and return the legislation to the House of Bishops for further
reflection." They suggest that the Bishops return the Measure to
the Synod unamended.
Affirming Catholicism and the Group
for Rescinding the Act of Synod (GRAS) have also criticised the
Bishops' actions. Affirming Catholicism warns that, if the Measure
is not sent back to the House of Bishops, "the Synod will be faced
with a dreadful choice".
Gloucester and Worcester diocesan
synods have voted to request the Synod to return the Measure to the
Bishops, following Salisbury's lead (News, 22 June).
Churches around the country are being
urged to dedicate time this Sunday to pray for the Synod's
deliberations on women bishops.
Dr Lindsay Newcombe, a General Synod
member for the diocese of London, has set up a website, http://www.vigil4synod.org/,
which lists churches that have already signed up.
She describes it as "an opportunity to
join together to pray for mutual love and understanding at a time
when the biggest story may seem to be one of division". A suggested
liturgy includes prayers for unity and mission.
Reform criticised the amendment this
week for not going far enough.
Question of the week: Should the women-bishops Measure
be returned to the House of Bishops?