THE Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales will "not please
everybody" with a code of practice containing provisions for those
who dissent from women bishops, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry
Morgan, has said.
Dr Morgan was speaking after the Governing Body of the Church
overwhelmingly approved a Bill to enable the consecration of women
to the episcopate. At the same time, it rejected the Bill's
original plan for statutory safeguards.
This two-stage approach had been endorsed by the Governing Body
last September (News, 21 September 2012), but last week
it accepted an amendment tabled by the Archdeacon of Llandaff, the
Ven. Peggy Jackson, that replaced those clauses with new ones
instructing the Bench of Bishops to agree a code of practice
Dr Morgan, speaking at the University of Wales Trinity St David
campus in Lampeter, Ceredigion, said that he was "very pleased
indeed" with the result. "The Bishops now will have to talk to a
spectrum of people across the Church about how they see things."
The Governing Body would discuss the matter next April, "and, in
the light of that discussion, we will produce the Code of Practice.
That's what the Bill says, that's what we've been entrusted to do,
and that is what we will do.
"That won't please everybody, and I've no idea what is going to
be in it yet, because we haven't even begun to discuss it. But
that's the process, and that is what we are going to stick
Dr Morgan said that he did not know why the issue of women
bishops caused so much more anguish than other contentious issues
facing the Church. "Some people feel that it is unbiblical, that it
is against the tradition, and that we are at variance with the
Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church.
"Well, we are at variance with the Roman Catholic and
Orthodox Churches. If that was the only issue that divided us, I
would say: 'Well, let's hang on a minute.' But, of course, the
Roman Catholic Church doesn't actually recognise our orders.
"We did have a Reformation, and it is possible for us as a
Church to look at faith-and-order issues in our own way. And we're
not actually fundamentally altering the threefold order. We are
just extending that order to women, and it is only right that we
should do so. If women are baptised and redeemed by Christ, they
ought to be able to represent him at the altar, and in a
The Welsh Bishops were meeting their counterparts from the C of
E this week, but Dr Morgan said that he had no plans to offer them
advice about getting the legislation passed in the General
"I don't want to give advice to anybody, because every Church is
different," he said. "It has been a long slow struggle for us here
in Wales. We failed the last time. We succeeded today, but I didn't
think we were going to succeed."
It was a good, spirited debate, he said. "There were no
histrionics; there were no threats. It was conducted, I think, in a
very Christian and mature and grown-up way. I'm absolutely
delighted, and I think the Church in Wales can be proud of the way
that it conducted itself today."
During the debate, Archdeacon Jackson said that she had tabled
her amendment to prevent the Church in Wales continuing to debate
the issue in years to come. "We are so close. . . Today can be the
day when we vote once for all that women can become bishops in the
Church in Wales."
But Dr Elliot King (Swansea & Brecon) argued that the
amendment "downgrades both the status and security for those who
have to dissent". He said that an unsatisfactory code of practice
could "force people like myself out of the Church in Wales".
The debate on the amendment lasted longer than the debate on the
Bill itself. It was passed by 72 votes in favour to 46 against.
There were six abstentions.
In the debate on the amended Bill, the Bishop of St Asaph, the
Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, went through some of the theological
arguments against women bishops. "I'm not sure if I find these
arguments shocking, or laughable, but it is not a tradition that I
can defend," he said in relation to quotes from Richard of
Middleton, Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury, and St Thomas
Arguments about complementarity and the representation of the
persona Christi were "essentially modern, and only
came to the fore when the older arguments had lost their force", he
said. "All this is beginning to look to me like a prejudice looking
for a theology rather than a theology governing tradition."
Canon Tudor Hughes (St Asaph) argued that the amended Bill took
away the opportunity for "members of the Governing Body to explore
together effectively the provision that traditionalists need to
secure a lasting place in the Church in Wales.
"We were given an assistant provincial bishop: that was removed.
We were given a Bill with a second Bill: that was removed. How can
we be assured that the code of practice won't be removed? We have
been assured that we have an honoured place. It doesn't feel like
When it came to the vote, the laity voted 57 in favour, 14
against, with two abstentions. In the House of Clergy, the vote was
27 in favour, ten against. The House of Bishops declined their
constitutional right to consult privately before voting, and
supported the Bill unanimously.
Cheers and applause greeted the result as it was announced.
After the vote, Dr Morgan promulged the Bill as a Canon of the
Church in Wales, and "henceforth binding on all members thereof".
It will take effect on 12 September 2014.
The Bishop of Hereford, the Rt Revd Anthony Priddis, whose
diocese includes parishes across the Welsh border, was one of the
first to react to the decision.
Bishop Priddis, who claims to have the highest proportion of
women priests among the English dioceses, said: "I hope we in
England will be following as soon as possible. We don't want glass
ceilings anywhere, and certainly not in the Church.
"We know how effective women priests can be, and know it is over
time in giving them the responsibility of being bishops."
Campaigning groups on both sides reacted to the news. The chair
of Women and the Church (WATCH), the Revd Rachel Weir, described
the decision as "fantastic": "The vote will provide a welcome boost
to the morale of female clergy well beyond the Welsh borders, and
help to set a positive context for our own on-going legislative
process in the Church of England."
The Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, who is
chairman of the traditionalist group Forward in Faith, said: "We
cannot see how a female bishop could be what a diocesan bishop
should be - a Father in God and a focus of unity for all within his
"This vote therefore makes the question of the provision of
episcopal ministry for those who continue to uphold Catholic faith
and order in the Church in Wales even more pressing."
He said that he hoped that responses from Catholic groups in
Wales to the Welsh Bishops' consultation on the Code of Practice
would be met with "the generosity of spirit that ought to be the
hallmark of Christian episcopacy".
Wales becomes the 20th province of the Anglican Communion to
admit women to the episcopate. These include Scotland and Ireland.
Around the globe there have been 33 female bishops in the Anglican
Communion. At present, 24 are in post, or are bishops-elect.