THE General Synod has voted to send the draft women-bishops
Measure back to the House of Bishops, and not to vote on final
approval until November.
An adjournment motion, moved by the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd
Trevor Willmott, was carried by a two-thirds majority, after about
two and a half hours of debate. 288 voted in favour, 144 voted
against, 15 abstained.
Bishop Willmott's adjournment motion stated: "That the debate be
now adjourned to enable the new clause 5(1)(c) inserted by the
House of Bishops into the draft Measure entitled "Bishops and
Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure" to be
reconsidered by the House of Bishops."
Shortly after the vote, the Archbishop of York told the Synod
that the House of Bishops will meet on 12 and 13 September to
review the amendment. The Synod will meet in November to vote on
Moving the final-approval motion, before the adjournment motion
was moved, the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch,
said that the difficulties with the legislation "centre on a
dilemma which is easy to state but far harder to resolve.
"On the one hand, there is a clear majority view across the
Church of England that the ministry of women priests has greatly
enriched our life over the past two decades and that all orders of
ministry should now be open to women and men equally, without
clarification or equivocation. At the same time, there remains a
strong desire to be faithful to our heritage as a broad Church open
to all who assent to our historic formularies."
Moving the adjournment motion, Bishop Willmott told Synod
members that the steering committee had advised the House of
Bishops not to amend the legislation, but insisted that the
proposal to adjourn the debate was not made "from any sense of
pique or frustration.
"It is no part of our desire to set our own judgement over
against that of the House of Bishops or to call into question the
right of the House of Bishops to take the decision that they did.
But the plain fact is that the amendment has caused widespread
dismay among many of those who have supported the Measure up till
now, including a large number of the Church's senior female clergy.
Many who have previously voted for the Measure have now said that
they could no longer vote for it in its present form."
He acknowledged that the Bishops would need to "weigh very
carefully" the impact that removing or amending the new clause
would have on those "for whom it was a welcome acknowledgment of
their own position" and suggested that a revised illustrative Code
of Practice should be published alongside revised draft
In a ten-minute contribution to the debate on the adjournment
motion, the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to explain "what was in
the minds of the House of Bishops" when it voted for the
"controversial" 5(1)(c) amendment. This action came, he said from
the "very deep desire" of the "overwhelming majority" that the
Measure should be carried "confidently".
Dr Williams said that the bishops had diagnosed "unfinished
business". They were not convinced that it would be carried. This
was not because they had been "got at", but because of their
reading of their own diocesan situations and the views of their
diocesan representatives at Synod.
There was a danger that the Measure could be seen as
accommodating "sheer prejudice" or "unthinking conservatism", which
would be "offensive to women at least as profoundly as what has
been suggested as an amendment".
Bishops had "underrated" the sense of hurt and offence caused by
the amendments, and would need to "examine themselves" and "feel
appropriate penitence that they did not recognise that".
Dr Williams warned, however, that an adjournment was "not a
panacea" and should not be seen as "squaring off to the House of
Bishops", but was an opportunity, and, "although it might sound a
bit over-optimistic", perhaps an adjournment "might be good for
us". It was an "opportunity to do something better". He didn't
feel, himself, "convinced that we were wrong in the wording we
selected"; but that was "a conviction that needs to be tested and
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, gave
Synod a warning. He said that there was "no way that I am going to
be able to explain to the [House of] Commons that when this Church
had voted by 42 dioceses to two, that it was not possible for the
Synod to manage to develop a Measure which commands the support of
the whole Synod; and in particular commands the support of those
who campaign for such a Measure."
He said that Parliamentarians were familiar with the concept of
"ping-pong" when the Commons and Lords could not agree, and
suggested that during an adjournment "the usual channels" should
"use the space and time to resolve the outstanding