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Women bishops: ‘little silver balls won’t stay in their holes’

05 July 2012

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.

Leader comment

Question of the week: Should the women-bishops Measure be returned to the House of Bishops?

Job of the Week


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