THE General Synod has asked for new legislation to be drafted to
enable women to be bishops. After a long debate on Monday morning
and afternoon, it carried a motion from the House of Bishops
embodying Option One (
News, 31 May), which was amended so as to specify the addition
of a mandatory grievance procedure for parishes, and to urge that
"facilitated conversations" continue to be used during the
Amendments seeking to make provision for opponents by Measure or
regulations made under Canon, "for co-provincial provision for
alternative episcopal oversight", and to retain Resolutions A and B
for parish churches combined with a new Act of Synod all fell.
WATCH welcomed the passing of Option One, and said that
facilitated small-group discussions, carried out behind closed
doors on Saturday, had contributed to a better "tone" of debate.
Traditionalists were heartened that the Synod had shown a
commitment to providing for opponents. All sides welcomed the
continuation of "facilitated discussions", under the guidance of
the Archbishop of Canterbury's director of reconciliation, David
During the debate, many speakers responded positively to a
suggestion from the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent, that for this legislation the Synod should dispense with
a revision committee, which could be "awful", he said, as in the
way it had unpicked the previous legislation, and instead have an
enlarged steering committee, which would include "people from
pressure groups and no groups at all". This, he hoped, would break
the deadlock. Members who agreed with him included the phrase "I
agree with Pete", at his invitation, in their speeches.
Voting was at times close in the House of Laity. Although Synod
members spoke of moving away from previous patterns of debate, in
fact several votes were taken by the Synod dividing into Houses.
The motion was carried by 319 votes to 84, with 22 abstentions.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, the Archbishop of
Canterbury said: "We came to a grinding halt last November. We've
got some momentum back into the process."
Archbishop Welby conceded that there "is not two-thirds in each
House. There is a strong desire to get it done. . . It is going to
take a little while, [and we are] going to have to go on working at
it. There has been such a shift in mood over the last six months,
but as ever I remain extremely optimistic."
He described it as an "electrified ring-fence process, which
should give people enough assurance of provision to be able to stay
within the Church".
WATCH said in a statement issued after the vote that it was
"pleased that the House of Bishops' preferred option received
overwhelming support from the General Synod. . . The positive
experience of the facilitated conversations [on Saturday] was
reflected in the tone of the debates. WATCH remains committed to
full engagement with the ongoing process."
The Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes (Durham) wrote on her blog, on Tuesday: "Nobody spoke against the
principle of having women as bishops. That was a huge change from
November, when what was meant to be a debate on specific
legislation became open season on the ordination of women."
The Catholic Group in General Synod said that it welcomed "the
clear commitment of the General Synod to make provision for all in
the Church of England". It was "fully supportive of a new kind of
process involving facilitated conversations", as outlined by Bishop
It continued: "It is clear, from the voting on a number of
amendments, that the amended Option One will need a considerable
amount of further work in order to build a sufficient consensus for
when it comes to the Synod for Final Approval in 2015."
A statement from Forward in Faith, issued on Tuesday, said:
"Naturally, we are very disappointed that none of the amendments
which would have ensured secure provision for those unable to
receive the ministry of women as bishops and priests was passed.
However, we are encouraged by the significant minorities,
especially in the House of Laity, which did vote for such
"We are confident that these votes, and the commitment which
they represent on the part of many to a genuinely inclusive Church
of England, in which all may flourish, will not be overlooked as
the process moves forward."
Speaking during the debate, Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham) said
that members of the Synod might have noticed that on 20 November,
at the end of the debate (
News, 23 November), she had not been "ecstatically happy". On
reflection, this was because she had felt that she had seen "us
mauling our own small part of the body of Christ. I felt as though
we were savaging each other. I want to say, we must never do that
again. We have a chance now to grasp a new future."
But Vivienne Goddard (Blackburn) warned the Synod: "We are going
to end up revisiting what we have done up to now . . . knowing that
it is not acceptable to a third of the House of Laity."
Canon Margaret Swinson told the Synod on Tuesday morning that
the Appointments Committee, which she chairs, had met on Monday
night "in order to appoint a steering committee to take charge of
the preparation of draft legislation to enable the ordination of
women to the episcopate in accordance with the motion passed by the
Mindful of Bishop Broadbent's suggestion and the amendment
urging "facilitated discussions" to continue, the Committee had in-
vited Mr Porter "to join the meeting to provide specialist advice
on how to give effect to the Synod's intentions - in particular,
the appropriate size of the steering committee."
The Committee agreed to issue invitations to 15 members of the
Synod, representing a breadth of views, to take part in preparatory
work. The names of the steering committee would be published as
soon as all those who had been invited had responded and the
membership had been finally agreed, she said.
of the Synod
Question of the Week: Has the Synod given the right steer on