THE General Synod has asked for new legislation to be drafted to
enable women to be bishops. After a long debate on Monday morning
and afternoon, it carried a motion from the House of Bishops
embodying Option One (
News, 31 May), which was amended so as to specify the addition
of a mandatory grievance procedure for parishes, and to urge that
"facilitated conversations" continue to be used during the
Amendments seeking to make provision for opponents by Measure or
regulations made under Canon, "for co-provincial provision for
alternative episcopal oversight", and to retain resolutions A and B
for parish churches combined with a new Act of Synod, all fell.
But many speakers responded positively to a suggestion from the
Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent, that for this
legislation the Synod should dispense with a Revision Committee,
which could be "awful", he said, as in the way it had unpicked the
previous legislation, and instead have an enlarged Steering
Committee, which would include "people from pressure groups and no
groups at all". This, he hoped, would break the deadlock. Members
who agreed with him included the phrase "I agree with Pete", at his
invitation, in their speeches.
Voting was at times close in the House of Laity. Although Synod
members spoke of moving away from previous patterns of debate, in
fact several votes were taken by the Synod dividing into Houses.
The motion was carried by 319 votes to 84, with 22 abstentions.
Speaking to reporters after the vote, the Archbishop of
Canterbury said: "We came to a grinding halt last November. We've
got some momentum back into the process."
Archbishop Welby conceded that there "is not two-thirds in each
House. There is a strong desire to get it done. . . It is going to
take a little while, [and we are] going to have to go on working at
it. There has been such a shift in mood over the last six months,
but as ever I remain extremely optimistic."
He described it as an "electrified ring-fence process, which
should give people enough assurance of provision to be able to stay
within the Church".
Speaking during the debate, Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham) said
that members of the Synod might have noticed that on 20 November,
at the end of the debate (
News, 23 November), she had not been "ecstatically happy". On
reflection, this was because she had felt that she had seen "us
mauling our own small part of the body of Christ. I felt as though
we were savaging each other. I want to say, we must never do that
again. We have a chance now to grasp a new future." Option One
provided a different way of doing things, she said. It could be
But Vivienne Goddard (Blackburn) warned the Synod: "We are going
to end up revisiting what we have done up to now . . . knowing that
it is not acceptable to a third of the House of Laity." And Canon
Wealands Bell (Lichfield) said, in a maiden speech, that Saturday's
discussions had shown him that "there is no trust". It was
impossible to create it by removing assurances previously
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Geoffrey Rowell, making
his last Synod speech on the subject, said: "So often we do not
hear each other, because we start from different ecclesiological
premises." He hoped that facilitated discussions would bring these
out into the open.
WATCH said in a statement that it was "pleased that the House of
Bishops' preferred option received overwhelming support from the
General Synod. . . The positive experience of the facilitated
conversations was reflected in the tone of the debates. WATCH
remains committed to full engagement with the ongoing
The Catholic Group in General Synod said in a statement that it
welcomed "the clear commitment of the General Synod to make
provision for all in the Church of England". It was "fully
supportive of a new kind of process involving facilitated
conversations", as outlined by Bishop Broadbent.
It continued: "It is clear, from the voting on a number of
amendments, that the amended Option One will need a considerable
amount of further work in order to build a sufficient consensus for
when it comes to the Synod for Final Approval in 2015."
Canon Margaret Swinson told the Synod on Tuesday morning that
the Appointments Committee, which she chairs, had met on Monday
night "in order to appoint a Steering Committee to take charge of
the preparation of draft legislation to enable the ordination of
women to the episcopate in accordance with the motion passed by the
Mindful of Bishop Broadbent's suggestion and the amendment
urging "facilitated discussions" to continue, the Committee had
invited the Archbishop of Canterbury's director of reconciliation,
David Porter, "to join the meeting to provide specialist advice on
how to give effect to the Synod's intentions - in particular, the
appropriate size of the Steering Group."
The Committee agreed to issue invitations to 15 members of the
Synod, representing a breadth of views, to take part in preparatory
work. The names of the Steering Group would be published as soon as
all those who had been invited had responded and the membership had
been finally agreed, she said.
See this Friday's Church Times for full