LAST November's vote profoundly damaged the credibility of the
Church of England in the eyes of the nation it serves.
As the House of Bishops has recognised, the impact of this on
our mission, particularly among younger generations, may prove to
be devastating unless the Church can act quickly and decisively to
consecrate women on exactly the same basis as men, and welcome that
When General Synod votes down a draft Measure, the subject can
only be reintroduced in that Synod if the proposed legislation is
substantively different. Option One clearly meets this requirement
in ways that other options do not. After years of debate about
legal technicalities and amendments to amendments, it offers a
clear, rational and cohesive way forward for the whole Church.
WATCH particularly welcomes the statement (in s.12 of GS1886):
"The Church of England will be fully and unequivocally committed to
all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference
to gender, and will hold that those whom it has duly ordained and
appointed to office are the true and lawful holders of the office
which they occupy and thus deserve due respect and canonical
Option One is the only option that genuinely allows all bishops
to be bishops, in ways that uphold the existing order and
structures of the Church of England.
Yet it also makes provision for those who will seek alternative
pastoral and sacramental care, underpinning this with a new
"dispute resolution procedure" for those who feel their bishop is
not complying with the agreed national framework (s.14). In
contrast to previous arrangements, this system could genuinely
fulfil the Church's desire to operate "in a way that maintains the
highest possible degree of communion" (s.12).
I served on the steering and revision committees that
painstakingly explored all the options last time around, and one of
the recurrent sticking points was that so many of the proposals
effectively sought to create a Church within a Church.
It is time to be one Church, working through our differences in
the same room. WATCH therefore welcomes the facilitated discussions
scheduled for the July Synod, and trusts that these will help Synod
members explore the new proposals in a collaborative and
constructive manner. The future mission of our Church depends on
The Revd Anne Stevens, Vicar of St Pancras, in London, is
vice-chair of WATCH.