THE narrow defeat of the women-bishops draft Measure in General
Synod last week has prompted calls for the process of electing
members to be changed.
The campaign group for women bishops WATCH said that the voting
among the laity showed that "there was a considerable discrepancy
between the local and national voting patterns. When the
legislation was debated at diocesan level, it achieved more than a
two-thirds majority among lay people in 37 of the 44
"In Guildford, for instance, 70 per cent of lay members voted in
favour at diocesan level, but three of the four General Synod
members voted against. Had the General Synod members representing
six dioceses chosen to reflect the views expressed by their
diocesan synods, the Measure would have passed."
Canon Rosie Harper, a member of the House of Clergy (Oxford),
said that people in her parish felt "completely betrayed" by the
fact that four of their lay Synod representatives had voted against
the Measure, when the vast majority in the diocese was in
She said that there would be "much lobbying for change in
the system" governing how the House of Laity was elected. She
suggested that the process of electing members of the House of
Laity should be reformed: instead of deanery-synod representatives'
electing them, everyone registered on a parish electoral roll
should be eligible to vote, she said.
Ruth McCurry, a spokeswoman for GRAS (the Group for Rescinding
the Act of Synod), speaking in a personal capacity, said that
deanery-synod representatives often did not have "personal
knowledge" of those who were standing for the House of Laity of the
Synod. Different groupings had succeeded in getting people elected
in the House of Laity.
"We need a system where the electorate know each other, and that
points to diocesan synods doing the electing [of General Synod lay
representatives] instead of deanery synods, because they know the
people in their diocese."
Nevertheless, the Revd Jon Marlow, Priest-in-Charge of St
Pancras's, Plymouth, who studied synodical governance at
theological college, wrote on his blog on Sunday: "As it stands, the electorate
of General Synod lay reps is directly representative of every
church in the country, and there is no other body than deanery
synods of which that is true."
Introducing "any sort of proportional representation" to the
process of electing members of the House of Laity would "only seek
to increase the influence of the larger churches", he argued.
Elsewhere on the blog, Mr Marlow wrote: "The important thing to
realise about General Synod members is that they are
representatives, not delegates. Members are elected from and by
their peers, and entrusted with making a decision on our behalf.
They are not sent with a mandate: they are elected to think for
There have also been calls for lay supporters of women bishops
to stand at the next General Synod elections in 2015.
The Revd Stephen Kuhrt, who chairs the Evangelical group
Fulcrum, said: "The next elections for General Synod in three
years' time may well turn into a virtual referendum on the issue
[of women bishops], meaning that a very different House of Laity
will surely be elected. It is vital for lay people in the Church of
England to wake up to their responsibility to get people elected to
General Synod who will properly represent them."
Mr Kuhrt said that Charismatic Evangelical leaders, who were
mostly in favour of women's leadership, "recognise the greater
responsibility they need to have in speaking out on such issues.
The excuse of 'not wanting to do politics' is not good
Question of the Week: Should the electoral process for
choosing lay representatives in the General Synod be changed as a
result of last week's vote?
A LIST showing how each member of the General Synod
voted on the final approval of the draft women-bishops Measure
was published on Monday by Church
Most attention will be paid to the votes in the House of
Laity, where the Measure was lost. Here, there were 132 votes in
favour, 74 against, with no abstentions. The Measure thus fell by
Thirty-three of the 74 members of the House of Laity who
voted against the Measure were women. About 25 of the laity who
voted against were elected - or, in a few cases, re-elected after a
gap - to the Synod in 2010, when elections produced more
traditionalists and conservative Evangelicals (
News, 22 October 2010).
A sizeable number of no-voters among the laity were
recognisable as members of the Catholic Group, or Reform, the
conservative Evangelical group. But floating voters proved
decisive. The director of Forward in Faith, Stephen Parkinson, said
that Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals alone "could not
have defeated it [the Measure]. It was defeated by a group of
people who were prepared to listen to those saying that provision
was not strong enough."
A letter from eight members of the House of
Laity who voted against the Measure was published in The
Times, yesterday. The signatories were: Tom Sutcliffe
(Southwark); Mary Judkins (Wakefield); Dr Phillip Rice (London);
John Davies (Winchester); Anne Bloor (Leicester); Priscilla
Hungerford (Winchester); Keith Malcouronne (Guildford); and
Christopher Corbet (Lichfield).
The letter said that 12 of the members of the House of
Laity who voted against the Measure "did so in spite of most of us
unreservedly supporting the consecration of women".
The letter continued: "Most of us who make up the dozen,
whose votes against the Measure did not reflect any serious
opposition to women bishops, had taken the trouble to state clearly
in our election addresses in 2010 that we would vote against the
Measure if it did not in our judgement make ample provision of
oversight in the way that the minorities needed, or honour promises
made to the same minorities only 20 years ago.
"Many of us 12 were prepared to vote for the Measure as
it stood in July with a clause referring to 'theological
convictions' of those requiring alternative oversight, had the
Bishops not lost their nerve and decided under pressure from
'senior women' to reconsider their proposed 'helpful'
The letter suggested that "a new briefer Measure" be
brought before the Synod, which "could incorporate the 1993 Act of
Opposition to the Measure was particularly pronounced
among the laity in certain dioceses. Six out of Chichester
diocese's eight lay representatives voted against, as did six out
of seven of Winchester diocese's lay members. Among Blackburn
diocese's lay representatives, four out of six voted against;
among Chelmsford's, four out of seven; among Guildford's, three out
of four; and among Oxford's, four out of seven.
In London diocese - the only diocese, apart from
Chichester, to vote against the draft Measure at its diocesan synod
- six out of ten voted against. There were unanimous votes in
favour of the Measure among lay representatives from Bradford, Ely,
Hereford, Norwich, Portsmouth, St Albans, and St Edmundsbury &
The Measure passed comfortably in the House of Bishops,
where it was carried by 44 to three, and in the House of Clergy,
where it was carried by 148 to 45.
The three bishops to vote against the Measure were the
Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner; the Bishop of Gibraltar in
Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell; and the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd
There were two abstentions in the House of Bishops: the
Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, who wrote earlier this month
that he was "unconvinced" by the draft Measure (Comment, 9
November); and the Bishop of Exeter, the Rt Revd Michael
The list of how the Synod voted can be downloaded here