House approves a new attempt at women bishops

24 May 2013

Hopeful: two women at St John's Theological College, Nottingham, have produced a badge expressing support for women bishops; it costs £2.50 from www.stjohns-nottm.ac.uk

Hopeful: two women at St John's Theological College, Nottingham, have produced a badge expressing support for women bishops; it costs £2.50 from www.stjohns-nottm.ac.uk

FRESH legislation to enable women to become bishops should be introduced at the General Synod in November and receive final approval in 2015, the working group appointed to advise the House of Bishops has recommended.

The report of the working group, appointed last year ( News, 14 December), was presented to the House of Bishops at its meeting in York on Monday. The group had the task of preparing new legislative proposals after the fall of the women-bishops Measure in November ( News, 23 November).

The report outlines four new options as a way forward, and the group has proposed that these be considered at the General Synod in July. The options have not yet been released: a statement issued on Tuesday said that the the House of Bishops had agreed that the working group's report should be published with a separate report from the Archbishops "setting out the House's recommendations to the General Synod".

The working group has met several times in recent months. In February, the core group of ten was joined by 15 additional participants, including representatives of Forward in Faith, the Catholic Group, the National Association of Diocesan Advisers in Women's Ministry (NADAWM), Reform, the Church Society, and WATCH. After this meeting, a consultation document was issued to all members of the General Synod setting out the four propositions that had emerged from the "facilitated discussions" ( News, 15 February).

This spoke of the need for a shorter and simpler form of legislation. It warned of the Church of England's "general tendency of going in for too much regulation and prescription", and expressed concern that, the more substantial and complex any Measure was, "the more anguished and hesitant the Church of England risks being over a development that, for most people within the Church of England, should be a cause of affirmation and joy".

The consultation drew 376 responses (News, 5 April).

The statement on Tuesday also said that the House of Bishops had approved "the necessary changes in its standing orders to ensure the attendance of senior women clergy at its meetings". In February, it announced that eight senior women clergy would participate in all meetings.

On Monday, a spokesman at Church House said that women had been present at the meeting in York, "both staff and participants from the working groups".

Question of the Week: Is the mood now right to introduce women bishops?

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