*** DEBUG END ***

Leader: No light task

01 November 2013

IT IS no surprise that the Church of England's General Synod returns to the topic of women bishops this month, and to the shape of the legislation that may ultimately provide for their introduction into these two provinces. But that this is not a new subject does not preclude an element of novelty in the process. Sure enough, the proposals on the agenda include a new idea: an "ombudsman" - although that is certain not to be the official title, if he or she becomes a reality. The appointment of an independent individual to review decisions made concerning those who hold the minority position is a prospect that, it is hoped, will encourage waverers in the House of Laity, and even opponents themselves, to have confidence that those who do not agree with women bishops will be given space to flourish in a Church that has them. And there is further the proposal that the Bishops' declaration providing assurances on this will not be amended without the approval of a two-thirds majority in all three Houses of the Synod.

While the majority of the steering committee agrees that this is the way forward - and the Archbishops have rightly pointed out what an achievement this is - two members have withheld their commendation on the grounds that its remit - restricted to the Bishops' Option One, as agreed by a majority in the Synod in July - was too narrow. This is a reminder that we have come far from the level of provision that traditionalists originally hoped for in the light of the kind of legislation that had been provided on women's ordination to the priesthood. Yet there are indications that few of them are willing to dismiss the new proposals out of hand. Much, of course, will turn on what the declaration in its final form says, and ultimately on the calibre of the figure appointed to review the working out of the provision. As we have said before, much of the bitterness on the traditionalist side has stemmed from finding that the spirit of the 1993 arrangements, and occasionally the letter, was not always honoured. Since a comparable charge is frequently levelled at traditionalists, how far will an independent reviewer be able to ensure that the new vision of mutual flourishing is perceived in the same mode by the majority and the minority?

He or she, if rigorous enough, may deter the more egregious forms of shabby conduct; but a change of heart by many people will be needed if the new proposals are not to become as tarnished as the Act of Synod and the assurances given in the House of Bishops' document Bonds of Peace. Reconciliation, through facilitated conversations and the like, is not a light task. We detect a softening of tone in the leadership of Forward in Faith since the establishment of the Roman Ordinariate for former Anglicans; perhaps this will encourage those who are passionate about the elevation of women to the episcopate to move on from the anxieties of summer 2012 and the anger of last November to something more propitious.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Letters to the editor

Letters for publication should be sent to letters@churchtimes.co.uk.

Letters should be exclusive to the Church Times, and include a full postal address. Your name and address will appear below your letter unless requested otherwise.

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available


Inspiration: The Influences That Have Shaped My Life

September - November 2024

St Martin in the Fields Autumn Lecture Series 2024

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


Visit our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)