A BILL that would amend the law to allow women to become bishops
in the Church of England was introduced into the House of Commons
on Wednesday. It will have its Second Reading on 3 May, but is
unlikely to progress further unless it receives Government
The Labour MP Diana Johnson moved a Ten Minute Rule Bill,
Bishops (Consecration of Women), on Wednesday. The Bill would
"extend the Church of England's 1992 General Synod decision to
allow women to be priests so that women could now assume the more
senior role of bishops in the Established Church", a statement from
the MP's office said.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Ms Johnson said
that she did "not seek to have Parliament intervene in church
affairs lightly, but the matter around discrimination is very
serious, and we must speak up".
The failure of the General Synod to pass the draft women-bishops
20 November) meant that "we're now entrenching sex
discrimination in our Parliament by reserving 26 places in the
other place [the House of Lords] for men only. This is the only
part of Parliament where women are not allowed to take their
Ms Johnson said that the consultation document published last
month by the women-bishops working group Women in the
Episcopate: A new way forward (News, 15 February) "lacks a
sense of urgency for change".
"It's become clear that the Church needs to act much more
quickly to sort out this problem, and I believe that Parliament
needs to be very clear about its view to assist the Church. In the
words of Elvis Presley, we now need 'a little less conversation,
and a little more action'."
The Conservative MP Edward Leigh, a Roman Catholic, spoke in
opposition to the Bill. It would be "extraordinarily dangerous" for
Parliament to interfere in matters of doctrine. "Let's recognise
that the Church of England will move at its own pace, and let us as
politicians not interfere in its order."
The campaigning group WATCH issued a statement last Friday in
support of Ms Johnson's Bill, which it described as "timely in
reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that
legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod
sooner rather than later".
The Catholic Group in the General Synod published a response to
Women in the Episcopate last Friday. It said that the
Measure that fell in November "was just too complex", but
questioned "how a single-clause Measure, or any other draft
legislation which made less adequate or less secure provision than
the failed Measure, could attract sufficient support to pass at
Final Approval in Synod".
The Catholic Group said that it "would want to see an inclusion
in the Canons of the Lambeth Conference Resolution to the effect
that both those who support the ordination of women, and those who
do not, are loyal Anglicans".