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Women bishops: vote expected in September

19 April 2013

GAVIN DRAKE

All ears: members of the Governing Body listen to a translation of the bilingual proceedings 

All ears: members of the Governing Body listen to a translation of the bilingual proceedings 

THE Select Committee established to consider the draft Bill to enable women to be consecrated as bishops in the Church in Wales will finalise its report and recommendations by 14 June, paving the way for a vote by the Governing Body in September.

If passed as it is currently drafted, the Bill would not come into effect until a second Bill had been passed to provide for those with theological objections to women in the episcopate (News, 21 September 2012).

The Archdeacon of Newport, the Ven. Jonathan Williams, who chairs the Bill's Select Committee, said that three amendments had been proposed by the deadline.

Under CiW procedures, the Select Committee does not decide whether to accept the amendments, but will make recommendations on these, and any of their own amendments. They will then be debated during the committee stage of the Bill, which will take place in September, as well as the final approval vote.

Archdeacon Williams said that one of the amendments "proposes that the scheme of provision for members who, for reason of conscience, cannot accept a female bishop, should be extended to provide also for anyone unable to accept a male bishop."

Another amendment, he said, would remove all reference to the second Bill, and, instead, invite the Bench of Bishops to produce a code of practice.

The Bill was not debated by members during last week's session of the Governing Body. Instead, members met in small groups to consider the theological cases for and against. In addition to the recent Church Times eight-page guide (Supplement, 18 January), members were provided with two discussion papers.

In one, the Revd Dr Rhiannon Johnson said that the CiW has ordained women and men as priests for more than 15 years, and that a third of its priests were women. "It is to our credit in Wales that this has happened without the need for an elaborate 'Berlin Wall' of structural provisions, such as exists in England and threatens all episcopacy.

"We have not yet tied ourselves up in knots with appeasements and resolutions that make no one feel secure, and deepen the divisions between us on this issue rather than allowing them a chance to heal."

In the other paper, Canon Tudor Hughes said: "The Church in Wales has always considered the episcopate to be a foundational sign of its unity with the whole Church, past and present. To alter that foundational sign of the apostolicity of the whole Church, without the consent of the whole Church, is to do grave damage to the ecclesial identity and self-understanding of the Church in Wales.

"We doubt that an episcopate which no longer conforms to one of the identifying marks of the Order of Bishops - its maleness - can continue to be a sign of continuity, of apostolicity, of fidelity and unity in the way the Church in Wales has hereto understood them."

A Bill to permit women to serve as bishops was last debated by the Governing Body in April 2008. On that occasion, it narrowly failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in the House of Clergy (News, 4 April 2008).

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