THE legislative process to admit women to the episcopate should
be "restarted" in July, when the General Synod meets in York, the
Archbishops' Council said this week.
During discussions at a residential meeting in Sheffield, on
Tuesday and Wednesday, "there was agreement that the Church of
England had to resolve this matter through its own processes as a
matter of urgency," a statement from Church House said.
"The Council therefore recommended that the House of Bishops,
during its meeting in a fortnight's time [on 10 and 11 December],
put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year, with
a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in
Members of the Council had "commented on the degree of sadness
and shock that they had felt as a result of the vote
(News, 23 November) and also of the need to affirm all women
serving in the Church - both lay and ordained - in their
The chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, Canon
Simon Killwick, and the chairman of Reform, Prebendary Rod Thomas,
said on Wednesday that they had "received acknowledgement" from
the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of a request "for talks to
break the deadlock" over women-bishops legislation.
They said in a joint statement: "If agreement can be reached at
round-table talks on fresh legislation which provides clearly and
fairly for all members of the Church of England, there is no reason
why fresh legislation should not be fast-tracked through the Synod
before the next elections in 2015.
"It has never been our intention to prevent the consecration of
women as bishops; our concern has always been for legislation which
also made clear and fair provision for the substantial
The General Synod's Standing Orders prevent only the
reconsideration of the same legislation during each
quinquennium, not the bringing of new legislation before it.
Prebendary Thomas said on Monday that Reform would like the
talks to be chaired by the Archbishop-designate, the Bishop of
Durham, the Rt Revd Justin Welby. "We feel very much that Justin
Welby has been put by God in this place with a unique set of gifts
to help us resolve this problem; he has our complete trust in
seeking to move forward."
Campaigners for women bishops who are angry at the outcome of
last week's vote have, however, indicated that they will press for
a single-clause Measure, without provision for traditionalists
enshrined in it.
The Rt Revd John Gladwin, a former Bishop of Chelmsford and the
honorary vice-president of WATCH, said that opponents of the
Measure had "blown up the bridge to any compromise solution". The
"only . . . route" that could now be taken, he said, "is the route
which removes all discriminatory provisions from the life and
ministry of the Church".
The Times reported on Monday that, in an internal memo
to members of the Archbishops' Council, the Secretary General of
the Synod, William Fittall, said: "There will be renewed calls for
a much wider, simpler approach that confines itself to removing the
current prohibition on the consecration of women while leaving
provision for those opposed to that development as a matter of
policy and choice rather than law."
Speaking on BBC1's The Big Questions on Sunday,
Christina Rees, a member of the Archbishops' Council and a
campaigner for women bishops, said that conservative Evangelicals
were "using finding the perfect arrangements [for opponents] as a
smokescreen. I think basically what they want is never to allow the
Church of England to have women bishops."
The Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Speaker of the
House of Commons, who also sits on the Synod, told the same
programme: "The reality is there is never ever going to be anything
good enough for them [opponents of the Measure]. . . Really what
they're saying, tied up behind theological arguments, is 'Not in my
lifetime'. . .
"What I really hope is that our Church will have the courage of
its convictions, and that when it comes before the Synod again it
will come with a single-clause [Measure]."
The Revd Stephen Kuhrt, who chairs Fulcrum, an Evangelical group
that supports women bishops, said: "What there cannot be is any
further concessions to opponents beyond those contained in the
Measure just rejected. It is impossible to go further than the
legal requirement for respect to be shown to opponents' convictions
without ending up with women being established as semi-bishops
rather than full ones.
"Opponents of women bishops need to wise up to this if they are
not to end up with the single-clause Measure that many now want and
which may well be best."
Welsh timetable. The Archbishop of Wales, Dr
Barry Morgan, told BBC News last week that he hoped that women
would be ordained bishops in the Church in Wales "at least in
principle, before very long".
Dr Morgan said: "I think it will be September next year that we
will bring the Bill hopefully enabling women to be ordained as
bishops. Even if we accept them in principle next year, it can't
come into force until there are some pastoral provisions for those
who are opposed."