THE package of proposals produced by the Steering Committee
given the task of preparing fresh women-bishops legislation
represented a "new and hopeful phase", the Secretary General,
William Fittall, said on
The package was presented to journalists at a briefing at Church
House. In a press release issued concurrently, the Archbishops
said: "It is significant that the 15 members of the Steering
Committee . . . who represent the widest possible range of
opinion on the matter, have been able to reach substantial
agreement on a package of proposals to put to General Synod in
The package comprises a draft Measure and Amending Canon, a
draft House of Bishops' declaration and draft regulations
establishing a disputes resolution procedure. It is accompanied by
a report from the Steering Committee, which was appointed in July,
and includes five members who voted against the last women-bishops
Measure (News, 26 July).
The report notes that two of the 15 members, the Revd Paul
Benfield and Susie Leafe, decided to record abstentions when the
other 13 voted to commend the package to the Synod and the House of
Bishops. This was because the Committee had been restricted, by a
motion passed by General Synod in July, to drawing up legislation
based on "Option One" of the report from the House of Bishops on
new legislative proposals (News, 5
Nevertheless, the Committee's report states that "we all agree
that the balanced package. . . gives full and effective expression
to that motion. And the belief of those of us who commend this
package is that, in all the circumstances, it now offers the best
way forward for the Church of England in its ministry and mission
and a possibility of securing an early resolution of this
Among the 13 who commended the report are three members who
voted against the last women-bishops Measure: the Bishop of
Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, the chair of the House of Laity, Dr
Philip Giddings, and Prebendary Rod Thomas.
The draft Measure consists of four clauses and a single
schedule, compared with the one that fell in November, which ran to
12 clauses and four schedules. The second clause contains an
amendment to the Equality Act 2010, which, the report says, will
put the Church of England in the same position as all other
denominations and faiths whose senior appointments do not require
the formal involvement of the Crown.
The Amending Canon provides for the admission of women to the
episcopate. It also, the report explains, imposes a duty on the
House of Bishops "to make regulations prescribing a procedure for
the resolution of disputes arising from the arrangements for which
the proposed House of Bishops' declaration makes provision".
Finally, the Amending Canon states that the House of Bishops would
need to secure a two-thirds majority in all three Houses in order
to amend the regulations set out in the declaration.
The report states that both the Bishops' declaration and
grievance procedure should be agreed before the Measure and Canon
are brought to final approval.
A draft Bishops' declaration is set out in the Committee's
report. It begins with the five principles commended by the House
of Bishops in May in its report on the new legislative proposals
May). Running to 40 paragraphs, it speaks of the importance of
"simplicity, reciprocity and mutuality". It also sets out
arrangements for parishes where the theological convictions of the
PCC lead them to seek the ministry of men.
Also set out in the report is a suggested procedure for the
resolution of disputes. The Committee recommends an ombudsman
scheme, whereby an "independent reviewer" is appointed by the
Archbishops, with the agreement of the Chairs of the House of Laity
and Clergy, to hear grievances brought by PCCs.
On Friday, the Archbishops commended the Steering Committee's
The General Synod will meet in London from Monday 18 to
Wednesday 20 November. The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James
Langstaff, who chairs the Steering Committee, will make a short
presentation on Monday evening. On Tuesday morning, members will
meet in small groups to discuss the package privately. On
Wednesday, Bishop Langstaff will move a motion welcoming the
package of proposals and inviting the House of Bishops to bring to
the Synod in February a draft declaration and proposals for a
disputes resolution procedure.
The Synod will then give first consideration to the draft
Measure and Amending Canon. Rather than propose that the draft
legislation be referred for revision by a Revision Committee, the
Steering Committee will move that the legislation be "considered
for revision in full Synod".
The report by the Steering Committee envisages that it may still
be possible for the legislation to go to final approval during
On Friday, Mr Fittall said of the package: "This is an approach
based on principle rather than rules, grace rather than law. . .
This is the first time since the discussion of women bishops
started in 2000 that a complete package has been agreed by people
with such a wide range of views. We are at the beginning of a
new and hopeful phase."
He quoted from a leader comment in last week's
Economist which asserted that "A simple idea underpins
science: 'trust, but verify.'"