Steering committee seeks to adjourn women bishops debate

08 July 2012

A GROUP of senior Church of England officials have announced that they intend to ask the General Synod to postpone tomorrow's historic vote to allow women to be bishops, so that last minute amendments made to the draft legislation by the House of Bishops could be re-considered. If Synod approves, the earliest they would be able to vote on final approval would be November, at a specially convened Synod, which is likely to cost in excess of £100,000.

There were growing signs that supporters of women bishops would seek to postpone the final vote on the draft law, or Measure; but it was not clear whether such a move would be supported by a majority in the Synod. But now the steering committee responsible for drafting the legislation and taking it through the revision stages say they want the vote postponed. It now seems more likely that the Synod will agree to a postponement; but there are still many who express a wish that the Synod will simply "get on with it."

Traditional Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals, who oppose women bishops on theological grounds, do not support a postponement. They welcome the Bishops' amendments, which were designed to ensure that such groups felt able to remain in the Church of England despite what they see as a radical departure from 2000 years of tradition and biblical interpretation.

But the Bishops' amendments provoked a storm of protest from some supporters of women bishops, who insisted that the amendments were a "compromise too far". Some supporters of women bishops had said that they would vote against the legislation if the amendments were not withdrawn.

At a preliminary debate about the Bishops' amendments on Friday afternoon, one Synod member said that by amending the legislation, the Bishops had "thrown a spanner into the works", but added that, rather than being Luddites, they were merely "clumsy engineers".

The Synod will debate the legislation - and the adjournment motion - during a full day's debate tomorrow in York. Final approval requires a two-thirds majority in each of the three houses of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity. If the Measure falls, the introduction of women bishops would require a new legislative process from scratch.

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