THE nature of the debate on women bishops at the General Synod
meeting last November has "finally shocked most bishops into the
realisation that conservative demands can never be met", a report
of "a series of confidential conversations" with bishops by the
gay-rights group Changing Attitude (CA) suggests.
The group has already met nine bishops that are "affirming" of
their stance, and will meet another eight shortly.
"The absolute confidentiality we guarantee means that bishops
have been very open and trusting," the director of CA, the Revd
Colin Coward, said, in an interim report of the conversations,
A Vision of the Future, that was distributed to supporters
this week. "We have learnt much from the conversations. With each
new encounter the narrative has evolved."
Mr Coward says that "the stance of conservatives who are hostile
to the full inclusion of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender people in the Church, in all forms of ministry, has to
He said that during the last hour of the women-bishops debate
last November, "bishops listened to speaker after speaker
revealing, for the first time, theological ideas underpinning their
hostility to women in ministry that have no place in the Church of
England. Bishops were finally converted to the need for a
In December, the House of Bishops will receive a report into the
C of E's "approach to human sexuality" from a group chaired by Sir
Joseph Pilling (
News, 6 January 2012). CA says that it is "increasingly
confident that a change in teaching and practice of the Church of
England . . . will be recommended."
CA's report says that the majority of bishops "seem to be moving
towards the formal affirmation of committed same-sex
relationships", and that "the original hostility to civil
partnerships has been revised and there is now a belated welcome
from the majority of bishops."
But the executive secretary of the conservative Evangelical
group Anglican Mainstream, the Revd Andrew Symes, said that the
debate on same-sex relationships was "nowhere near on the agenda"
of the General Synod. "It hasn't been concluded in any way in the
Church as a whole or among the bishops."
He acknowledged the need for "a proper review and debate" after
the publication of the Pilling report, and said that "Anglican
Mainstream would put their weight behind the continuation of the
historic position of classical Christian teaching on human