THE General Synod restarted the legislative process for women
bishops on Wednesday afternon, after spending the morning in a
debate on the steering committee's report. The committee's
proposals are a package that includes not only legislation, but a
declaration to be made by the House of Bishops.
Professor Michael Clarke (Worcester), who was
chairing the debate, explained that "well over 50" requests to
speak had been lodged. "The Synod, at its best, can put on a really
good debate and conversation. I anticipate that this morning will
be one of those occasions," he said.
Opening the debate, the Bishop of Rochester,
the Rt Revd James Langstaff, who chairs the steering committee for
the draft legislation, joked that members of the committee had been
"wary" of the response to their proposals, because of the saying
that "one should be wary when all speak well of one."
He acknowledged the work of the steering committee and said
that, if the Synod agreed to the motion, he would ask the House of
Bishops to request that members of the larger-than-usual steering
committee remain in place "to continue to have the wider brief that
enables it to keep an overview of the whole process and overall
The draft legislation and package of proposals "look to the day
when the Church of England as an ecclesial entity will have made a
clear decision to open all orders of ministry to women and men
without distinction, whereby all those so ordained are acknowledged
as the true and lawful holders of the office which they occupy.
"But they also look to us being the kind of Church within which,
that clear decision having been made, those who out of theological
conviction take a different view on that matter may continue to
flourish, playing a full part within the life and structures of our
Church - and that without any limit of time." He said that the
proposals were "about us being the kind of Church we profess to
He hoped that the Synod might be able to refer the legislation
to the dioceses after next February's meeting, but said that it was
essential that all parts of the package, including the agreed texts
for the Bishops' declaration and dispute-resolution procedure,
should be finalised before the dioceses were consulted.
Richard Mantle (Ripon & Leeds) said:
"History makes us naturally cautious about optimists who wave
documents urging peace in our time. These proposals are worthy of
very serious consideration, but to some they do not offer the kind
of security yearned for by Catholic Anglicans."
Mr Mantle said that he was encouraged, none the less, that the
archbishops were publicly committed to upholding the diversity of
The Synod needed to be brave in accepting the proposals before
it. "We need to embrace a new, worthy, and life-giving compromise.
It demands considerable trust for those who have not been
accustomed to trusting." Mr Mantle said that women must hold their
office on the same grounds as men; "but we need to see evidence of
this rebuilding of trust before legislation completes its passage
He also said that there needed to be moves to ensure more
traditionalist bishops were consecrated.
Canon Simon Killwick (Manchester) said that the
new proposals were much better than last year's legislation, and
welcomed the use of a larger than normal steering committee. "One
of the big improvements is that there is no reliance on a code of
practice, which would have been very torturous," he said. "There
would have been ongoing debate and controversy over it. We have now
the potential for a process which can happen relatively quickly and
in a better atmosphere."
Canon Killwick said that the concept of an independent
ombudsman-type reviewer to resolve disputes was much better than
the prospect of going to court. "A great deal of trust is still
required on all sides and that is probably a good thing."
Prebendary Rod Thomas (Exeter) said that the
Synod had conducted itself with a generosity of spirit. "I'm aware
that when people like me voted against the Measure last year, it
was the cause of shock, anger, bewilderment, and grief. But being
able to sit down and talk constructively about how we might find
agreement has been an uplifting process."
Prebendary Thomas said, however, that there remained major
issues still to be sorted out for those like him from the
conservative Evangelical wing of the Church.
"There's a problem with jurisdiction," he said. "But, despite
that, I shall be voting in favour of motion. But, if those major
issues remain, I may not be able to vote for final approval.
"Even if, at the end, I am unable to join the majority of Synod,
I shall rejoice in the measure of agreement that we have been able
Christina Rees (St Albans) said that she could
not have envisioned a year ago that the Synod could have got this
point. "What we are considering now is better than what we had last
year; and I also believe we are better as a Synod."
Mrs Rees said that she wished to add two more principles to the
House of Bishops' proposals: transparency and "relationality". "How
we relate to each other reveals our prime relationship with Jesus
Christ," she said. "What the world will take away from today is not
just what the Church of England decides about having women as
bishops: it will be what the Church decides about women."
Prebendary David Houlding (London) said that,
while the previous night he had felt that he was approaching death
by General Synod, this morning he felt he was approaching
resurrection: "What we have in front of us works, and works for all
of us, no matter where we are coming from."
It was a Measure "plain and simple, to enable women to be
consecrated without qualification or limitation"; but it was
equally good news in offering assurance to traditionalists. "Our
time has not been wasted," he said. "The moment I have been waiting
for has arrived."
It was a "pleasure" to follow Christina Rees in speaking. The
theological integrity on both sides had been "honoured and
secured". The package left open the "ecumenical avenues of
conversation and relationship" with the "wider part of
He explained: "There remains something within our polity that
the greater part of the Universal Church can recognise as
consistent with their practice and discipline." He concluded: "The
battle surely is over. Let's get on with the mission."
Anne Martin (Guildford) said that completing
this process was "becoming urgent. If we can't agree among
ourselves, how can we expect to be taken seriously outside the
Church?" Outside was "the real world, Syria, the Philippines,
poverty, desperation and unhappiness in our own country."
She was glad that there were no amendments, and expressed hope
that the package would go to the House of Bishops for clarification
and not for alteration.
The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd
Christopher Chessun, began by saying: "If Christina Rees and David
Houlding are happy, then I am happy." He congratulated the steering
committee. Progress since November had been "nothing short of
miraculous". He spoke of the importance of trust. His diocese was
"happily fractious", but he was aware of a "more corrosive culture
of suspicion and mistrust" which had surrounded the bishops: "If we
are to move forward, we will have to show ourselves to be worthy of
The Revd Amanda Fairclough (Liverpool) was
attending her first General Synod meeting. "Last November, I
watched the live feed as the vote failed," she said. "I actually
wasn't terribly surprised; I wasn't even the least bit angry. I
wasn't even feeling a little bit hurt, undervalued, or
unappreciated. But I did feel a curious sense of
She had no doubt that "one day, a woman will be called by God to
be Archbishop of Canterbury. For her sake, for the whole Church's
sake, and . . . for God's sake, we must and we have to put our
shoulders to the mediative and legislative wheel to achieve the
best possible proposals."
Canon David Banting (Chelmsford) said that he
stood before the Synod as a conservative Evangelical who would vote
no to the legislation; but was doing so "with a fresh confidence
that there is a new atmosphere, there is a new trust, where my
integrity is allowed to be spoken and is allowed to flourish".
He thanked God for the "new and positive atmosphere", but "I
must be honest that I still stand where I stand."
Prebendary Maureen Hobbs (Lichfield) explained
that she used to work at GCHQ, and still could not explain what she
did there. "On joining that esteemed body, and on leaving, I had to
sign the Official Secrets Act," she said. "The signing of that Act
made no difference to the authority and the law that affects me. As
a subject of the United Kingdom, like most, if not all of you in
the room, I am subject to the Official Secrets Act and may be
prosecuted under its terms if I do something that contradicts
She said that, in the same way, anybody who was ordained was
under the orders and authority of a bishop. Making an oath or
signing the Act served "only to remind people of their
responsibilities". She said that it "should be possible to devise a
way of doing this if we find that the oaths are problematic".
The Revd Paul Benfield (Blackburn) spoke as a
member of the Steering Committee. "Given the constraints under
which we will be working, I have to tell you that this is the best
that I think can be done. It is a good and workable solution," he
Anne Foreman (Exeter) explained that, after the
vote last November, she had gone to worship with "those of
differing convictions". She acknowledged that this was "small
beer"; but said that, in both a Forward in Faith and a conservative
Evangelical parish, she had found a very warm welcome,
outward-looking, lively congregations, plenty of lay involvement,
quality preaching, and priests who were loved and appreciated.
"This experience brought home quite forcefully that we really are
all part of the Church of England, and can rejoice in our
partnership in the gospel."
The Revd Charles Read (Norwich) said that he
also welcomed the proposals but that there were things he was
nervous about. He said: "It's about the suggestion that we
ringfence a place in the College of Bishops for conservative
Evangelicals. I'm an Evangelical but we do not normally appoint
bishops on the basis of one part of what they believe. The
intention of the proposal is good, and there are some voices which
are not being heard, but this is not the way to go about it."
Bishops are human beings, he said, and they may change their
Susie Leafe (Truro) said that she wished she
could say "all is well" but she could not. "We claim this is
designed to enable all to flourish, yet my church can only flourish
when we deny our theological convictions and accept a woman as a
chief pastor," she said.
Even if her parish asked for another bishop, this decision would
lie in the hands of a woman, she said. For the sake of appearing in
step with the times, she said, "we are risking churches who are
sending large numbers of men for ordination and whose congregations
are generally younger." She criticised the House of Bishops for
deciding the new approach on women bishops should not open the
question of jurisdiction.
Fr Thomas Seville CR (Religious Communities,
York) said that he welcomed the report and would vote for it. He
said: "There is a wonderful atmosphere which has grown into the new
way of doing things." Fr Seville said moving forward would require
"making another's difference as an essential part of our lives". He
pointed Synod towards 2 Samuel 21, where David asks the Gibeonites
"What must I do for you that you should bless the inheritance of
Israel" and urged Synod to ask the same question of those opposed
to women bishops.
The Archdeacon of Hackney, the Ven. Rachel
Treweek (London), said that, while having "no desire to distort the
harmony", wanted to explore how to ensure that mutual trust
remained the refrain.
She highlighted paragraph 19-22 of the draft House of Bishops
declaration, which related to PCCs. It was "not uncommon" for her
to hear from PCCs that they were "confused" about what the
resolutions and their rescinding meant. Could bishops stipulate
that there should be notification within a church before the PCC
debated the resolutions? And could they produce some "simple and
non-partisan material" to help PCCs in their deliberations?
The Prolocutor of the Lower House of the Convocation of
Canterbury, the Ven. Christine Hardman
(Southwark), announced that she would be eating humble pie in her
speech. When the Bishop of Willesden had suggested, in November,
the creation of a wide steering committee, she had thought the idea
to be "completely off the wall, very irritating, and absolutely
likely to fail". She apologised to him.
As a member of the steering committee, she could report that the
process "was not a cosy one". If the Synod moved on with this
process, there would be continued need for "that kind of sincere,
courageous, and dangerous engagement". People would feel "very
uncomfortable at times" and would need to end "conflict-avoidance
behaviour", which was "deeply insulting to those with whom we
disagree". She concluded: "Isn't God good?"
Dr Jamie Harrison (Durham) spoke as a member of
the steering committee and as a GP who had been involved in
complaints. He praised the dispute resolution procedure developed
by Dr Philip Giddings and Stephen Slack. It "seeks to protect PCCs
ahead of the game" and "warns people off from bad behaviour. If
things do go wrong, we have arrangements and mechanisms so that
concerns about failures of due process can be investigated and
Dr Elaine Storkey (Ely) spoke about law and
grace. She argued that "good law is essential to enable the free
flow of grace". Sin, self-interest, and abuse of power would
continue in the Church. But, she argued, "What unites us is far
greater than a separates."
Good law depended on grace, she said: "We need grace to
recognise that one another need to be full participants in this
process." She had heard "an enormous amount of grace" this
Peter Haddock (Southwark) hoped that the Synod
would not "slip into bad habits as the process continued". He spoke
of the "importance of taking this package as a whole", and the
"danger of pulling at one thread only to see the fabric lunge
The Vice-Chairman of the House of Laity, Tim
Hind (Bath & Wells), said that it would be a "good
idea if members of the House of Bishops invited the Independent
Reviewer to visit them" before any complaint had been made, in
order to "inspect their practices from time to time".
Dr Hannah Cleugh (Universities of Durham &
Newcastle) described the proposed package as "fresh, imaginative,
promising, and yet so traditionally Anglican". The fact that it was
a package was "its greatest strength".
The Archdeacon of Cleveland, the Ven. Paul
Ferguson (York), spoke of the "brilliant work of steering
committee"; but warned that "the work begins from here."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that he
and the Archbishop of Canterbury were committed to ensuring that
traditional Catholics and conservative Evangelicals continued to be
selected to serve as bishops. It was easy to know what traditional
Catholics were looking for, but more difficult with conservative
Evangelicals. A number of members of the House of Bishops saw
themselves as conservative Evangelical.
He offered "deep thanks" to the steering committee, staff, and
officers, and to "all of you for your self-denying ordinance . . .
by not putting in amendments". He said that the "general
magnanimity is palpable", but warned that "it is not time to open
the champagne bottles yet."
Mary Johnston (London) questioned the wording
of Clause 2 of the Measure, which would amend the Equality Act 2010
to state that "the office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a
public office." As somebody who had spent five years as a member of
the Crown Nominations Commission, she was "extremely appreciative
of the public role of Church of England bishops". She described the
clause as "seriously regrettable".
"I understand that the statement only applies in relation to the
Equality Act 2010 and has no implication for the public role of
bishops more generally," she said; "but, surely, once we have
declared as a Church and set in law that in one sphere our bishops
are not in public office, there will be plenty of voices in the
future eager to point out our specific renunciation of that role,
and apply it elsewhere.
Debrah McIsaac (Salisbury), who is Canadian,
spoke of the ombudsman in Saskatchewan, which was one of the first
in the modern world. It was a way of resolving a complaint "by
someone small against someone powerful". The Archdeacon of
The Meon, the Ven. Gavin Collins (Portsmouth) wanted to
speak about the ministry of bishops. They must be a "focus of unity
for all churches and clergy in his or her diocese". This would be
true for women bishops. He argued: "Churches should not get to pick
and choose the episcopal gender."
Dr Anna Thomas-Betts (Oxford) spoke in support
of the proposed independent reviewer.
The Revd Hugh Lee (Oxford) was concerned that
the legislative package would seem to exempt bishops from all
aspects of the Equality Act.
Canon Rosie Harper (Oxford) was "struck by the
sheer weirdness of a community arguing about discrimination in the
21st century." Professor Richard Burridge
(University of London) said: "It is time for us to stop giving the
bad news and to move on to consecration of women, so we can
evangelise the nation."
The motion was carried by 378 to eight with 25 recorded
abstentions. It read:
That this Synod, welcoming the package of proposals in
GS1924 and the statement of principles endorsed by the House of
Bishops at paragraph 12 of GS1886, invite the House of Bishops to
bring to the Synod for full consultation in February a draft
declaration and proposals for a mandatory disputes resolution
procedure which build on the agreement reached by the Steering
Committee as a result of its facilitated discussions.
AFTER adjourning for lunch, the Synod gave first consideration
to the draft legislation.
Bishop Langstaff introduced the draft Measure for the
consecration of women as bishops. He said that, contrary to normal
procedures, if the Synod voted to proceed with the draft Measure,
it would go to revision by full Synod, and not in committee. "This
is because the Measure is brief, and there is also a concreteness
to the whole package; so it makes sense to keep the whole thing in
He continued: "Potentially, a parish which requests the ministry
and provision of a bishop with regard to their gender may be
falling into the remit of the Equality Act." Therefore, besides
allowing women into the episcopate, the draft Measure also amended
the Equality Act 2010 by adding a clause that stated that bishops
were not public officials. This would protect parishes from any
potential legal action on the grounds of discrimination because of
April Alexander (Southwark) and Clive
Scowen (London) expressed their reservations about such a
The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Rev Christopher
Hill, said in his last speech to Synod before retiring: "Get on
with it, and goodbye."
Sarah Finch (London) argued that the loyal
Anglicans who were opposed to women bishops were not protected.
The motion that the Draft Measure be considered for revision in
full Synod was carried overwhelmingly.
The Bishop of Rochester indicated that, having agreed to send
the Draft Measure for revision in full Synod, he hoped that they
would agree to do the same with the Amending Canon. The Amending
Canon would, among other provisions, remove gender-specific
language from the Canons where the episcopate was mentioned.
Canon Killwick welcomed the facts that the Canon had within it a
requirement for the House of Bishops to make regulations for
dispute resolution procedures, and that a two-thirds-majority
approval had to be obtained from the Synod for any changes that
might be made to those regulations.
But he said: "At the moment the Canon reads slightly oddly,
because it refers to the House of Bishops declaration; but nowhere
is any explicit or direct reference to that declaration."
He asked the steering committee to look at that before February
to see whether the Canon could "look a little more complete".
Dr Sentamu welcomed the removal of gender-specific language.
"For those for whom headship matters, it isn't simply a matter of
gender," he said. "And for those for whom maleness and sacramental
assurance matters, the maleness thing wasn't really at the heart of
it, and we never really got to having it resolved."
He said that the changes would "help us in the way we talk about
what it is those who are opposed are looking for".
Canon Banting questioned whether the Amending Canon affected the
status of the Book of Common Prayer as "one of the formularies of
the Church of England" in the light of its gender-specific
The Dean of Jersey, the Very Revd Robert Key
(Winchester), said that he would be abstaining from the vote, "not
because I don't thoroughly approve of it, but because I look
forward to using this as a basis for amending the Canons of the
Church of England in Jersey, and guiding them through the States of
Jersey and the island's parliament for ratification".
Professor Burridge answered Mr Banting's question by explaining
that in the English of the Book of Common Prayer, the masculine
pronoun included the feminine; and that in both the Prayer Book and
the King James Bible, feminine pronouns were regularly expressed by
The Synod agreed to refer the Draft Amending Canon No. 33 for
revision in the full Synod.