From Mr Martin Dales
Sir, - Tim Hind, Vice-Chair of the
General Synod's House of Laity (Letters,
2 November), will be well aware that the Church of England
would already have women bishops had it not been for the refusal of
campaigning groups for women bishops to allow proper provision to
be made for traditionalists.
As long ago as 2004, proposals for
proper provision were published in Consecrated Women? Had
there been a serious engagement with those proposals, and a proper
dialogue between all parties, legislation for women bishops would
already be on the statute book.
Since then, traditionalists have
supported a number of compromises, but each one has been rejected
by groups campaigning for women bishops, who have also campaigned
against proper provision for traditionalists.
While 42 out 44 diocesan synods
approved the current draft legislation, one quarter of dioceses
expressed dissatisfaction with the legislation, either by passing a
following motion, or by not approving the legislation. A recent
survey by Christian Research found that 31 per cent of practising
members of the Church of England were opposed to women bishops, and
that a massive 75 per cent wanted provision to be made to enable
traditionalists to remain in the Church of England.
The provision that this legislation
would make is uncertain and unfair; it would lead to years more
politicking and division; it would lead to challenges in the
secular courts; it would lead to the eventual elimination of
traditionalists from the Church, and the narrowing of the
comprehensiveness of the national Church.
It is the right and duty of Synod
members to vote against this disastrous piece of legislation, and
to seek a better way forward.
York General Synod member
Old Malton YO17 7HB
From Mr A. M. Hughes
Sir, - The Ven. Len Moss writes (Letters,
2 November) that those like me who are against the ordination
of women "distance ourselves from diocesan and deanery structures"
and show "crude discourtesy towards women priests, and even the
denial of their existence". (He says other unpleasant things that I
I am treasurer of my PCC, and
secretary of the deanery's Inspection of Churches Committee. I
belong to a church of "central" churchmanship where (as far as I
know) only one other person takes the same view as mine. My vicar's
wife has been ordained, and is a curate with us; until recently, we
also had a lady as associate priest. Relations between us have
always been amicable, and there is mutual respect on both
Stereotyping and misrepresentation do
not help the situation.
A. M. HUGHES
3 Moody Road, Headington
Oxford OX3 0DH
From the Revd Anne
Sir, - As the "Enough Waiting"
campaign gains momentum, I hope that Synod members will resist the
pressure to vote with their hearts rather than their heads. This is
a time for cool reflection - which is not helped by apocalyptic
warnings about "disaster", "danger", and "demoralisation" if the
legislation is not passed now (Letters,
In recent months, much of the debate
has centred on precise legal definitions and amendments to
amendments. In the process, have we forgotten some of the bigger
Do we want to enshrine new
discriminatory practice in the law of the land? Those who cannot
accept women bishops explain that their views are based on
scripture or tradition and are not intended to be discriminatory. I
accept this; but the effect of what is proposed in the Measure
clearly is discriminatory. This is why section 7 specifies five new
exemptions from the Equality Act 2010 for the Church of
As the Synod prepares to vote, do we
know how Parliament will view the proposed legislation? Do we know
what challenges it may give rise to under European law? Are we sure
that this is the right way forward when the rest of the nation
appears to be travelling in a very different direction?
Are there any non-legislative
alternatives? Those who cannot accept women bishops have always
insisted that they need legal safeguards; and yet they have not
found any of the proposed legal solutions acceptable. Have we
looked hard enough for non-legislative alternatives?
Paradoxically (and biblically), the
way of grace may offer more freedom than the way of law. Have we
done enough research into the experience of other Anglican Churches
that have passed simple laws and found ways of making them work for
Clearly, this has not happened
everywhere. But where is it working well, and what can we learn
from their experience?
Will this legislation ultimately
create further unity or further division in the Church of England?
The uneasy compromise of this Measure may help the Church of
England stay together for now, but how will it affect our long-term
progress towards unity? Should we have done more research on the
outworking of the 1993 Act of Synod? Should we try to imagine a
point in the future where the special provisions of this
legislation are no longer necessary, and then work out what sort of
Measure will help us to reach that point?
Given so many unresolved questions, it
will not be a disaster if the Measure falls on 20 November. In any
research, one of the most useful stages can be finding out what
doesn't work, so that new and better hypotheses can be put forward.
"Enough waiting" is a tempting slogan; but, if we have been asking
the wrong questions, then perhaps we should welcome the opportunity
to think again.
St Pancras Church
Euston Road NW1 2BA
From Mr N. J. Inkley
Sir, - I don't know who first
articulated the concept of "honourable abstention" by
traditionalists in the Synod vote on women bishops, but the phrase
has been latched on to by many. This is completely disingenuous,
and is, I fear, no more than a campaign tactic.
Its justification is said to be "so
that the Church of England can go ahead and have women as bishops".
But this is no longer the debate. Among the many traditionalists
known to me, there are none who do not now accept that there will
be women bishops. Their concern - and the debate - is about the
proper accommodation made for traditionalists, in keeping with the
promise that they are equal, valued, and continuing members of the
If the innovators cannot see that such
proper provision is not yet there, in the Measure, then surely they
can hear it in all that is being said around them. This requires
everyone with a trustworthy concern for the treatment and retention
of traditionalists to reject the Measure in its current form.
Abstention serves only one cause - that of extremist innovators who
care not one jot or one tittle about the knock-on effect upon
traditionalists, who are, even now, still reckoned respected
members of the Church of England. Indeed, the only lobby that might
logically abstain is that of passionate supporters of the
innovation who, nevertheless, recognise that proper provision is
not yet made for their fellows who have different views.
Let us shine the searchlight on the
proper matter. To enable the existence of women bishops is not a
difficult task; to provide, in harmony with that, a cohesive whole
Church that also respects those of a traditional outlook is. This
is what must be addressed. To pass a Measure with this still
unresolved is to commit an attack on the Church of England.
6 Knot Lane, Walton-le-Dale
Preston PR5 4BQ
From the Revd Rodney
Sir, - Supporters of the ordination of
women as bishops are talking increasingly of a "yes" vote as being
the only way to ensure peace in the Church after November. We are
told that only a vote for the current legislation (or at the very
least an abstention) will enable the Church of England to move away
from years of conflict and to go forward in mission.
This is a seriously flawed and
dangerous argument. Both sides of the women-bishops argument are
desperate to get on with the work of the gospel in a Church at
peace with itself; but this legislation will not lead to that
Peace can never be simply an absence
of conflict or the keeping of an uneasy balance between conflicting
groups, and peace can certainly never be maintained by force, no
matter how benign. The only peace that matters is the fruit of
justice and love. Where there is no justice or love, there can be
The problem with the current
legislation is that if it is passed as it stands, it will enshrine
within itself a grave injustice to those who in conscience cannot
accept women bishops. It will enshrine a series of broken promises,
and for the first time will give primacy to only one view. Worst of
all, it will show a lack of love to fellow members of the Body of
Christ, by giving so little that many loyal members of the Church
will feel marginalised and excluded. Generosity can never be a
fault among Christians. The result of all this will not, and indeed
cannot, be the peace we all desire.
I believe that only a "no" vote to the
present legislation (which is not the same as voting against women
bishops) will reflect a concern for the kind of justice and love
which make real peace. New legislation will have to be drawn up,
and that will take time, but it will surely be worth it if leads to
a proper and lasting peace.
Those charged with the future of our
Church need to vote not for what will satisfy the demands of the
moment, but for what is just and loving. A "no" vote is a vote for
a better future where there can be both women bishops, and just and
loving provision for those who cannot accept them. That way, we can
all move forward in peace, justice, and love, off the battlefield
and on to the mission field.
St Helen's Vicarage
27 Laithes Lane, Athersley
Barnsley S71 3AF
From the Revd David
Sir, - One of the most worrying
features of opposition to the gracious and generous provisions on
offer to those unable to accept women bishops is the inability to
trust that these will be honoured.
This anxiety seeks refuge in law. But
the law can never build trust. Quite the opposite. It has a way of
formalising and legitimising separation. It allows us to avoid the
hard and costly work of reconciliation. It closes a door that the
gospel insists must always be held open.
If this is so, then a vote against is
no solution. The problem needs to be addressed at a different
9 College Green
Gloucester GL1 2LX
From the Second Church Estates
Sir, - I see an important part of my
task as Second Church Estates Commissioner as seeking to ensure
that the Church of England and its views are taken seriously in
both Westminster and Whitehall.
Obviously, when shortly General Synod
members vote on the Measure concerning women bishops, each of us
will have to decide how we vote or abstain. I shall be voting in
support of the Measure. I earnestly hope that the Measure passes.
Indeed, if the Measure were to fail, I would find it impossible to
explain to Parliamentary colleagues how a Measure that commanded
the support of 42 out of 44 dioceses in England failed to be
approved by the General Synod.
If the Measure on women bishops were
now to be lost, apart from anything else, I firmly believe that it
would lead to the serious marginalising of the Church of England in
Whitehall and at Westminster, where we would increasingly be seen
not as a Church speaking for the whole nation, but simply as
House of Commons
Westminster SW1A 2TT
From Mrs J. Fielden
Sir, - My guidance as a Christian for
70-odd years has been from William Temple: the Church (= gospel?)
is more for those outside it than those inside. Your letters (
26 October) show people deeply concerned for themselves and
their beliefs. In former times, they would have been expected to
take themselves and their convictions elsewhere rather than slow
down the institution they purport to love. We could then get on
with our tasks.
18 Market Place, Leyburn DL8 5AS
From Dr Daphne Baston
Sir, - This is a dangerous time. There
is the opportunity for suitable women to be eligible for the
episcopate. This is what 95 per cent of dioceses want, and in my
view it will be disastrous if the vote fails. About five per cent
of dedicated Anglicans find this unacceptable. There will be great
pain and dismay, whichever way the vote goes.
Surely this is a great opportunity to
show the compassion and love that being a Christian demands, and to
demonstrate this to the wider world; to the millions with whom we
should be sharing the gospel.
Can we all rise to this challenge?
5 John Wood House,
Cathedral Views, Crane Bridge Road
Salisbury SP2 7TW