*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Women bishops: Welsh debate reflects two aims

20 September 2013

Gavin Drake reports the main business of the Governing Body's meeting

gavin drake

At the end of the debate: the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Morgan, promulges the canon to enable women to become bishops

At the end of the debate: the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Morgan, promulges the canon to enable women to become bishops

THE second day of the meeting of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales was dominated by the debate on the Bill to Enable Women to be Consecrated as Bishops.

The consideration of the Bill last week began with a Committee Stage, involving a committee of all members of the Governing Body to consider the proposed amendments, before a Report Stage debate on the Bill as amended, and then a vote.

Each of the three amendments was taken in turn. The Archdeacon of Newport, the Ven. Jonathan Williams, who chairs the steering committee, explained why it wished to reject them.

An amendment from the Revd Sarah Geach (St Davids), calling for provision to be extended to those who could not accept the gender of their bishop, whether it was male or female; and from Canon Peter Williams (Swansea & Brecon), to delete a clause that provision for opponents should be "subject to the provisions of the civil law relating to equality and other relevant matters", were overwhelmingly rejected, with little debate.

But much time was given to an amendment from the Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson, and Canon Jenny Wigley (Llandaff), which sought to remove the requirement that a second Bill, providing for opponents, should come into force before the current Bill could come into effect.

Archdeacon Williams said that the amendment went "beyond the remit" of the committee. "This proposal fundamentally changes the nature of the Bill and the process we are going to undertake today," he said. "The intention of the Bill from the beginning was for it to be a two-stage Bill. There was a straw poll taken at the Governing Body before the process began, asking if we felt this was the right way forward, and the majority felt that it was."

He continued: "Also, there was a certain unhappiness amongst the members of the committee that we would be limiting the provision of the code of practice simply to the Bench [of Bishops] by taking away the provision that is there to establish a wider working party that is able to receive submissions."

He said that he was sure that the Bench would consult widely if the amendment was passed, but members needed to understand the consequences: "If we pass the amendment, then the Governing Body will have no say in the content of the code of practice. We will be giving the Bench a blank cheque."

Archdeacon Jackson, explaining her amendment, said that the debate on the amendment "touches the very core of the issue of women bishops". The question was not whether the Church in Wales wanted women bishops - "we all think the Governing Body does want that to happen," she said. Nor was it about whether there should be provision for those who disagreed: "Governing Body has indicated absolutely that it believes there should be - and I believe there should be - conscience provision for those who will dissent.

"These two things will mean that . . . any woman becoming a bishop in Wales . . . will experience a degree of discrimination. She will be willing to do that in order to meet the pastoral needs of those people around whom the Church has changed its view. We recognise the pain that that will cause, and want to meet their needs so that there can be a secure and a valued place for all the people of this Church in this Church."

Archdeacon Jackson said that the core issue was whether the Governing Body should legislate for "new and explicit discrimination against women" to be "put into the constitution of the Church in Wales . . . We are in the 21st century. Many people are watching the Church in Wales today, longing for women to find their full and equal place within it. If we were to pass a Bill today that required legislation to discriminate against women in such a fundamental way about their identity as bishops, what would that say about the Church in Wales's view of the gospel of equality of men and women before before God, equally created male and female?"

She would be unable to vote for the Bill in its unamended form, she said; and she recounted her experience in the C of E, where she witnessed the "unsavoury scenes that still exist in England . . . where clergy are out of communion with their own male bishops, and refuse the ministry of their episcopally, lawfully consecrated bishops.

"The pain in the Church of England has persisted for over 20 years; and it is precisely because of their decision to ordain women as priests, and put into law a whole series of discriminatory provisions, that has caused all of that difficulty."

Another consequence of her amendment was to remove the possibility that the Church in Wales could "still be arguing in five, ten, or 20 years" about the provisions to be contained in a second Bill. "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. Without your support for this amendment, every decision we take today is still uncertain, and provisional upon events that we cannot control."

Dr Elliot King (Swansea & Brecon) said that the amendment "downgrades both the status and security for those who have to dissent". He asked what security would be provided. There had been no consultation when the Bench of Bishops had decided not to replace the provincial episcopal visitor after the retirement of the Rt Revd David Thomas in 2008. An unsatisfactory code of practice could "force people like myself out of Church in Wales".

Speaking in Welsh, the Revd Chancellor Dr Patrick Thomas (St Davids) said that he wanted to "go back to the real world", and asked: "What do I say" to the children and staff of the Carmarthen primary school he was to visit the next day "if the Governing Body reject the equality of women in the Church? They will think that we have an anti-women Church."

The Dean of Brecon, the Very Revd Geoffrey Marshall (Swansea & Brecon), said that he would vote for the Bill "with a heavy heart" if the amendment was not passed, because he would be "voting for discrimination. . . I am now in my fifth decade of ordained ministry, and I have to admit that, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes very slowly, I had to be persuaded of the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the ministry, first of women, then of divorced people, then of remarried people, then of gay people. But I have seen God at work in all of those people. . . I do want each Electoral College in the future to be able to choose the best person for the job."

He said that over the past 48 years the Church had been "talking about gender of the clergy while the Church has declined. . . Today, this very day, the Church in Wales has got the chance to make this the very last day in the history of the Church in Wales that we talk about the gender of the clergy; so that we can get on with something more important in the mission and ministry of God's Church."

Canon Tudor Hughes (St Asaph) argued that, "if we take it upon ourselves to vote for women in the episcopate, we also take it upon ourselves to provide sufficient provision for those who are opposed. . . We should not shirk from that responsibility and pass it to the Bench, no matter how confident we may be that they have all the answers."

The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, spoke "with something of a heavy heart" on behalf of the Bench of Bishops to ask members to reject the amendment, "not because we want to legislate for dissent, not because we want to legislate for opposition, not because we want to legislate for discrimination, but because we want you, the Governing Body which takes responsibility for the government of our province, we want you, the Governing Body, to make your provision for those who are our brothers, our sisters, and our friends, who have difficulty with the main principle with which we are speaking."

The wonderful thing about ministry was seeing people set free, the Revd Dr Rosemary Dymond (Monmouth) said. The amendment was an "opportunity to vote unconditionally for women bishops, so that we can move on and deal with the problems people are facing today." Trust, she said, was "something that is freely given, not legislated for".

Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff) spoke against the amendment. If it was discriminatory to offer provision in a Bill, it would be equally discriminatory to provide provision in a code of practice. It was important that "the message is sent out that . . . those unable to accept the principle of the Bill have a place enshrined in the Church in Wales for the future."

This could be best done by providing provision in a Bill, so that only the Governing Body could take that provision away. "That's not to say that we don't trust our bishops: it is simply saying that the proper place for that to be decided is within this Governing Body."

The speech by the conductor Marin Alsop at the Last Night of the Proms earlier this month, in which she expressed her amazement at being the first woman to conduct at that event, was recalled by Elizabeth Thomas (St Davids). "Somehow this feels a bit like that. Fancy: in 2013 we're actually debating whether we should have women bishops or not." She recognised the pain felt by those on both sides of the argument, and that "we are not here to be popular." But, she said, "we certainly need to be relevant, and that has never been more true than in 2013."

Hazel Burn (St Davids) said that if the Church believed that it was right for women to become bishops, "the challenge is to accept the whole package in unity and trust. Our God is an all-or-nothing God, and he expects us to be the same."

Speaking in Welsh, the Archdeacon of Meirionnydd, the Ven. Andrew Jones (Bangor), responded to speakers who had said that they would vote against the Bill if the amendment failed. This would be "the most dangerous statement we as a Governing Body could say to the world".

The Revd Jan Gould (Llandaff) spoke of her experience in the Church of England, where the ability of PCCs to pass Resolutions A and B to "restrict ministry of women in their churches" created "a Church within a Church". "The overwhelm-ing feeling among women was that the existence of these parishes posed a question not only about the validity of our orders as women, but also that we were somehow inferior to men."

She was not asking people to resign their ministry, but "on no other issue would the Church, by law, allow those who hold one view to refuse those who hold the different view to minister in their church." The C of E position was "a recipe for theological disaster".

Rebecca Stevens (co-opted, lay under-30s) said that the Governing Body had a "responsibility to protect the integrity of the Church's going on into the future" by ensuring that "our words and actions are aligned . . . How can the Church, with integrity, proclaim a gospel of transformation and good news when people see it treating women less well than any other group in society?"

Nigel King (Swansea & Brecon), supporting the amendment, said: "It is time for this Church to make a decision." He recalled the debate in the Early Church about whether non-Jews and the uncircumcised could become Christians, saying that this was "a major challenge to everything that a good Jew believed about himself and about his people", but that "if the Church hadn't accepted Gentiles, it wouldn't have survived.

"Of course, we don't do things just because the secular world tells us to. We take a stand on certain things. But is this really what God wants us to take a stand on, to jeopardise our ministry and confuse our message to Wales on love and service? On whether the bishop has interior plumbing or exterior plumbing?"

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, spoke against the amendment. He, too, was against writing discrimination into the constitution, but "the Bill as proposed by the Bishops simply does not require this. It is possible that any second Bill could provide for a code in exactly the terms drafted today by the amendment."

The question had to be decided by "patient discernment, and not a quick fix. A code may be right; a code may be not enough. But we need to work that out . . . in a way that is owned and agreed by as many people as possible, not least Governing Body itself."

The Church was a laughing stock to most women in the secular world, Susan Last (St Asaph) said. "If we fail to agree to women as bishops, then taking our mission further is going to be much more difficult, because it will get in the way." The National Assembly Policy Officer for Cytûn(Churches Together in Wales), Geraint Hopkins (Ecumenical), commented on the presence of BBC Newsat the Governing Body meeting. "There is enough misery in the world without covering the Governing Body."

The media, he said, was "so fascinated by this discussion . . . because they, and a huge number of our compatriots in our society, think that we are, frankly, peculiar. Here in the Church is the last place in our country where it is acceptable and legal to discriminate against women. Most people, both inside and outside our Church, think that in this modern age this is not only insane and unjust, but it is also unchristian."

The Revd Patrick Coleman (Monmouth) said that "when women are consecrated as bishops in this Church, there will be people who . . . will suddenly become ex- communicated." He said that this would "have to be dealt with by law, and not simply by trust", because the trust was already impaired.

Another Welsh speaker, Canon Dylan Williams (Bangor), questioned the amount of time and energy that had been wasted "going through these things time and time again. The world is passing us by. The bus is leaving. It's time to get on the bus, or find out that it is leaving without you."

Carol Cobert (Llandaff) warned that the Governing Body "must seriously learn from what happened in England" and the defeat of the Measure in November. "The public backlash was enormous; and if we follow the Church of England's example, the public backlash will be the same here in Wales." She said: "If we can't trust our bishops" to devise a code of practice, "we should do away with them and become another Church."

Dr Adrian Morgan(co-opted, under-30s) said that "there was nothing in the Bible that prevents the ordination of women. If we believed otherwise, we wouldn't have done it. Today, there are only a handful of scholars who believe that the Bible has anything to say about this issue . . . We have to stop messing around."

"What other things can we have a matter of conscience over?" the Revd Philip Bettinson (St Asaph) asked. "What kind of precedent will it set for us as a Church when we go down the road on some of the other big issues. . . Will we all look back to this point and say 'Ah, there is a chance that I can get legislation for my small point of view?'"

The Revd Richard Wood (St David) said that the Early Church made "no provision for those who believed that you had to be circumcised". He said that the Church "should have got to this point before society rather than . . . catching up with them. . . We should be leading society so that it can follow us towards the Kingdom of God." He said that the Bill without the amendment would take the Church to where it should have been hundreds of years ago.

The co-proposer of the amendment, Canon Jennifer Wigley (Llandaff), said that she wanted to make provision for opponents without the "risk of infinite delay. . . It will be lawful for the Church in Wales to call women to be bishops in a year's time. No 'ifs' and 'ands'. That will just happen."

"It saddens me to hear some people say they will leave the Church if this Bill is not passed," the Revd Angela Williams (Bangor) said. "Thank God that he doesn't walk out on us when things do not go his way."

A succinct speech was made by the Revd Haydn England-Simon (Llandaff), who said: "All morning we have been asked to trust the bishops. . . If we trust someone, does it mean we listen to them? They don't want this code of practice. Let's move on."

A co-opted member, Sandy Blair (Monmouth) said that the Governing Body was being "asked to decide who should exercise the authority in order to speedily settle the provision for those who have difficulty with the concept of women bishops. The Bill as presented by the Bishops gives that authority to us, the Governing Body, as law-makers. . . The amendment suggests that we, the Governing Body, should actually tell the Bishops to make the provision themselves in trust on our behalf." He said that, having listened to the debate, he sensed that "we are ready to move ahead, to do it speedily and to do it fairly." He supported the amendment.

The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd David Wilbourne (Llandaff), understood that the amendment was seeking to avoid a two-tier episcopate; but he said that, as an assistant bishop "with far less statutory and ecclesiological responsibilities . . . frees me up to be the bishop that comes under the radar and do the sort of things that bishops ought to be doing. . . Ladies, if you find your episcopacy freed up from some of the boring stuff, and some parishes that don't want to see you, don't worry about it: enjoy your freedom; enjoy doing the many many things you can do rather than fretting over some of the things you can't do."

Breaking ranks from the six diocesan bishops, he spoke in support of the amendment. "As the chaplain who sat at John Habgood's feet when he devised the [C of E's] Act of Synod in 1993, I know very well how well-intentioned provision, when it is enshrined in law, can mutate beyond the original intention. John Habgood . . . intended it to be a very temporary Measure during a short period of transition as the Church became used to women priests.

"The brevity of that transition period was flagged up by the three PEVs, flying bishops, appointed, being senior men near retirement age. That was deliberate policy. Watch my lips: that was deliberate policy consonant with the spirit of the Act of Synod, a transitional Measure, and yet here we are 20 years on."

Claire Williams (Llandaff) said that "it cannot be right that we are being asked to acknowledge that there are those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry of women as bishops, and tell them that they have a valued place within the Church, whilst at the same time not telling them how that value and worth is going to be worked out."

After more than two-and-three-quarter hours of debate, the Archbishop urged members of the Governing Body to vote with their consciences, and said that some of the bishops would abstain in order to encourage them to do that.

"The Bench of Bishops have listened very carefully to the debate, and taken on board the strong arguments on both sides. What the bishops want more than anything is for women to be ordained as bishops, but with proper pastoral provision for those who in conscience can't accept that."

The amendment was agreed: 82 votes in favour, 46 voted against, and there were six abstentions.

 

MOVING the amended draft Bill, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, said that arguments against the ordination of women to the priesthood tend to focus on tradition, scripture, and ecumenism.

On tradition, he said that some of the arguments were "more than a little bit ropey". He quoted Richard of Middleton, who, in the 13th century, said that "women were weak in intellect, and unstable in their emotions, and so incapable of priesthood". He then quoted Archbishop Theodore of Canterbury: "A woman's menstrual cycle made her unclean. and so unfit to approach the altar"; and St Thomas Aquinas: "Women were made from curdled semen, and were actually misbegotten men; so that only the more perfect male could represent God at the altar."

"I'm not sure if I find these arguments shocking or laughable," Bishop Cameron said, "but it is not a tradition that I can defend."

On scripture, he said: "When you scratch the scriptural tradition just a little, the Bible reveals many stories that the Church has neglected or overlooked." He cited the leadership of the nation of Israel under Miriam and Deborah; Priscilla, who led the churches of Asia; Junia, named as an apostle by Paul; and, in the Gospels, "a Messiah who gives a role to his mother as the mother of all disciples, and who chooses a woman as the first apostolic witness to the resurrection".

On ecumenism, he acknowledged the "stark fact" that "the Churches of Rome and of the East have set their faces against the ordination of women as bishops or of priests." But, he said, "Anglicanism was founded on the basis that there are times when our understanding of the gospel compels us to take a different route."

Nevertheless, while he had expressed his convictions, "the Bishop of St Asaph is most certainly not a Bishop of Rome, who can claim infallibility." The Church, he said, needed to "work hard to create as open and broad a space for co- existence as we can". It was, he said, a "formidable" task: "There are questions of conscience, of not creating second-class bishops, of not creating second-class fellowships, of providing fruitful avenues of sacramental and pastoral care for all. But I believe that we can do it."

Seconding the draft Bill, the Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, said that the Church "had always been called to recognise new things: what God is saying and doing now. . . Paul exalts the Galatians to keep in step with the Spirit, not to defer to the old things but to allow this new disclosure to inform and shape the life of God's Church here and now."

A procedural motion to curtail the debate and move straight to the vote was defeated by 70 votes to 52.

The Revd Haydn England-Simon (Llandaff) recalled the Gospel accounts of the feeding of the 5000, and Jesus's instruction at the end to "gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." He said that "Jesus made comprehensive provision. What provision is the Church in Wales - if it is to follow the example of its Lord's desire for unity, that all may be one and nothing lost - going to make for us in the light of this possible legislation?"

He contrasted the continuing provision in the C of E, pointing to next week's consecration of Canon Jonathan Goodall, with the removal of the provincial episcopal visitor in Wales.

Dr Elliott King (Swansea & Brecon) said he did not believe that the mission of the Church had been set back by not having women bishops. "When Pope Francis gathered in Brazil during his recent visit there, three million people gathered on that beach to watch him celebrate mass. That is a Church that doesn't ordain women to any orders at all." He said that the Church in Wales did not have "the authority to depart from the universal Church on this".

The code of practice mentioned in the amended draft Bill had "only one proviso attached to it: 'All members of the Church in Wales, including those who in conscience dissent . . . may have a sense of security in their accepted and valued place within the Church in Wales,'" Canon Peter Williams (Swansea & Brecon) said. He asked "how and who" would determine whether those who dissent had a sense of security.

Helen Biggin (Co-opted) described the discussion around the amendment as "a recognition that we all want the same thing", and "a recognition that not to en- able women to be consecrated as bishops, to continue to condone discrimination at the heart of our Church, is divisive, and undermining of the mission and ministry of the Church in Wales."

The Archdeacon of Cardigan, the Ven. Dr William Strange (St Davids), said that if members looked at the chart of average Sunday attendance in their report on membership, and covered up the timescale at the bottom, "would you be able to tell in what year women were ordained to the presbyterate? I don't think you would. Ordaining women to the presbyterate has not harmed our average Sunday attendance, but it certainly hasn't turned it around." The effect on mission, he said, was neutral.

Passing the Bill would be like going through a turnstile, and "a turnstile doesn't allow us to come back." He wanted to know more of the landscape on the other side.

Canon Stuart Bell (St Davids) said that the issue was not about equality, which "is absolutely guaranteed in scripture from the first page to the last page", but one of role. Paul, he said, had theological objections to the role of women in leadership. "He doesn't appeal to culture or tradition, but to creation ordinances. It is a position from which I cannot come. . . I don't think these biblical issues can simply be swept aside as if there is a lack of logic."

Susan Way (Llandaff) said that she could not accept the ministry of women as priests or bishops. She would vote no, and hoped others would also have the courage to do so. "It will need courage. We all saw the unpleasant backlash when the Church of England Synod rejected their [Measure]."

The United Reformed Church's ecumenical officer in Wales, the Revd Sally Thomas (Ecumenical), spoke of "The Gathering", a plan for unity currently being considered by Welsh Churches under which non-Anglican Churches would appoint a bishop, and their ministers would receive the laying on of hands as a route towards the creation of a United Church in Wales (News, 19 April 2013, and 19 October 2012).

She said that "two things that come up time and time again. Asking us to accept episcopacy is a huge thing. People are wrestling with that. What comes up is this: if we say yes to the recommendations, are we also saying yes to inequality? What if one of us elects a woman to be our bishop?"

Penny Williams (Llandaff) said that a "fundamental issue underlying" the debate was the role of lay people in a Church that had become inward-looking and focused on church-based activities. "What we have created is a two-tier Church. It isn't healthy for those involved, and it isn't healthy for the Church."

Robert Atack (St Asaph) asked that the Bishops ensure that "no one should be lost" when they prepared their "generous and respectful" code of practice.

The Revd Jan Gould (Llandaff) said: "In 1997, when the Church in Wales ordained women to the priesthood, they decided they would wait on the reception of this decision before taking the next steps towards having women bishops. The time of reception is now over. It has been 16 years since this province acted to ordain women as priests. Surely we can now say that it is of God; surely the period of reflection is over; and surely the question as to whether I and the women colleagues in this room are valid priests is no longer up to debate."

"This isn't a salvation issue," Dr Adrian Morgan(co-opted, under-30s) said. "When I get to heaven, whether I'm in or out will not depend on how I vote today. I will be asked: 'Do you know me?' A great many people will say 'No' - 'No' because they've been put off by our petty squabbles."

Bishop Wilbourne said that he had voted only once before on women priests, at a deanery-synod meeting in Yorkshire, 25 years earlier. Then, he had voted "No", even though he "believed passionately that women should be ordained". He did so because "loud people rounded on Peter, my orthodox colleague, who was a sunny and faithful parish priest, telling him very cruelly that he has no place in today's Church. . . I voted with Peter because I did not want him to stand alone."

Canon Steven Kirk (Llandaff) likened the debate to "having the builders in". "We are about to go ahead with something major without a faculty, because we are being asked to vote for the Bill, not knowing what is going to happen . . . I would prefer to know before we went ahead; therefore, I urge you to hold back, and let us find out what the provision is before we vote on it."

The Revd Dr Trystan Hughes (Co-opted) recently organised a "Grill a bishop" event for more than 30 16-to-20-year-olds. "The question of women bishops was the very first issue they wanted to discuss," he said. "They were all of the same opinion: now is the time. I have no doubt that voting against this Bill will be extremely damaging."

The Revd David Brownridge (Bangor) said: "In this debate, and the issue of whether or not we ordain women to the episcopate, one thing has been lost and not mentioned at all in the whole of our discussion, and that is the biblical truth that men and women are different. We are not just off the same stuff; but, rather, God has formed us differently, and has for us different roles within his Church."

Susan Jones (Bangor) spoke as "one of those opposed to the ordination of women to the episcopate on theological grounds", and said: "We, too, are tired: tired of the arguments, tired of the divisions, and tired of being told that our theological arguments are no longer valid."

The Revd Philip Bettinson (St Asaph) described himself as a "heretical lay person": "I do indeed stand and preside at the eucharist because I think that I have been duly ordained by my bishop. Roman Catholics would disagree with that; so would the Orthodox. We speak a lot about the universal Church, but it is very difficult to compare ourselves to a Church that hasn't really agreed with our existence as priests since King Henry had a small disagreement with them."

Dr Gillian Todd (Co-opted) said that her grandmother had to resign from her job as head teacher of a school when she got married; and that, when she was a young medical student, she "never met female surgeons", because "the male surgeons didn't want them." She went on: "When I was appointed chief executive of a health authority, a gentleman came into my room on the first day of my appointment and said: 'I've never worked for a woman a single day of my life, and I don't intend to start now.' He remains one of my closest friends.

"It is inconceivable to me to be part of a Church which excludes women from the episcopate, a Church which has accepted women as deacons and priests. It is unacceptable to me to have men and women in our Church who are not accepted for their views about the ordination of women. Our role is to work with people where they are."

"The qualities that we look for in bishops will not be changed by saying that we may at some point in the future choose a woman," Canon Jennifer Wigley (Llandaff) said. "The quality has always been about godliness, not manliness."

Pamela Odam (Bangor) emphasised that she was an elected member of the Governing Body. She had discussed it with her diocesan conference. "When I walk through the door it will be because . . . two-thirds of those people have asked me to vote in the way that I will."

The Revd Dr Jason Bray (Monmouth) explained that he was a biblical scholar and interested in the argument that Eve was created from Adam. "More recent biblical theology focused on Genesis 1, where it talks about image and likeness, and where it is very clear that male and female are made together: 'in the image of God he created them, male and female, he created them'. Genesis 1 underlines what is going on."

He was "very concerned by the whole idea of headship". "Modern theology suggests that the texts that talk about headship are slightly later in the New Testament canon than some of the earlier texts, and may be the product of enculturation, which means that the Church became conformed to Roman life.

"Modern theology would try to focus on Galations: in Christ there is neither male nor female."

"The spirit of the Bill proposed by the Bench of Bishops is lost" in its amended form, Canon Tudor Hughes (St Asaph) said. "There is now no space for us as members of the Governing Body to explore together effectively the provision that traditionalists need to secure a lasting place in the Church in Wales." Codes of practice had no long-term guarantee.

"We were given an assistant provincial bishop. That was removed. We were given a Bill with a second Bill. That was removed. How we 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 that."

Dr Morgan assured the Governing Body that the Bench of Bishops would "consult very widely on this code of practice, and will talk to all sections of the Church.

"We will have a discussion about the code of practice at the next meeting of the Governing Body next April. We will listen very carefully to what is being said. We will then produce that code of practice next September as a Bench. It is to that we have been entrusted, and it is our hope that no one will be lost."

Theresa Smith (Monmouth) said that "the Jews hold so strongly to their Word, the Torah. I feel that many of us are putting our ideas forward, instead of going back to the word of God, and prayerfully discerning what God wants, and not what society wants." She did not want to "stand in the way of God's purpose", and would abstain. "I believe that the Lord gives much worth to women, but womanhood is different from manhood."

When the Governing Body voted, the Bill received the required two-thirds in the House of Laity and the House of Clergy. The Bench of Bishops declined their constitutional right to retire and consult first. Laity: 57 to 14, with 2 abstentions; Clergy: 37 to 10; Bishops: 6 to 0. The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff votes as a member of the House of Clergy.

The Archbishop promulged the Bill as a Canon of the Church in Wales, and "henceforth bnding on all members thereof":


1. Henceforth in the Church in Wales women may be consecrated as bishops.

2. Wheresoever in the Constitution of the Church in Wales, the Book of Common Prayer for use in the Church in Wales or any form of service lawfully authorised for use in the Church in Wales reference is made to a bishop the reference shall be deemed to include women who have been consecrated as bishops.

3. The provisions of this Canon shall come into force one year after promulgation of this Canon.

4. In approving this Canon the Governing Body entrusts the Bench of Bishops without delay to agree a Code of Practice which commits the bench to making provisions such that all members of the Church in Wales including those who in conscience dissent from the provision of section 1 may have a sense of security in their accepted and valued place within the Church in Wales.

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)