THE House of Bishops' preference for "option one" for the
legislation to enable women to be consecrated bishops (
News, 31 May) has been strongly criticised by the Catholic
Group in the General Synod as a "step backwards". The motion
involves "the repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A
and B under the 1993 Measure".
Forward in Faith, another traditionalist group, warned that the
proposed legislation "sweeps away existing legal security" and
In the first detailed traditionalist response, issued last
Friday, Canon Simon Killwick, chairman of the Catholic Group, said
that it was "saddened" by the Bishops' choice, accusing them of
"closing down debate before it has started".
He wrote: "Option one will not help to achieve a consensus; it
will not create legislation capable of achieving the required
majorities. It would tear up the current settlement over women
priests, and replace it with arrangements which no one would be
obliged to follow."
The statement responds to the Bishops' appeal to trust. "We
regulate other areas of church life in great detail by law -
measures, canons and regulations - and we see no justification for
abandoning that approach in relation to one of the most
controversial areas of our church life."
The Catholic Group argues that keeping Resolutions A and B
"would provide the essential underpinning" for any future
arrangements, which "need to be secure, and not dependent on the
discretionary decisions of individual bishops, clergy, PCCs,
patrons, and parish representatives".
These criticisms match those of conservative Evangelicals
represented by Reform, whose chairman, Prebendary Rod Thomas,
described the future under the proposals as "really rather bleak"
On Tuesday, a statement was issued by the chairman of Forward in
Faith, the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, and its
vice-chairman, Dr Lindsay Newcombe. They welcomed the five-point
vision in the report of the working group attached to the Bishops'
proposals, but said that they were "puzzled by the conclusions that
the House has apparently drawn". They were also "puzzled as to why
the House of Bishops apparently believes that its new proposals,
which would involve no legally binding provision at all, are more
likely to gain the necessary majorities".
They write: "Our future can only be based on a mutually trusting
relationship. The proposal of legislation which sweeps away
existing legal security damages trust."
They express a hope that the General Synod "will choose a way
forward which builds on the existing arrangements rather than one
which destroys them. Such legislation would be far more likely to
secure final approval in the shortest possible time."
On Tuesday, Affirming Catholicism issued a "strong welcome" to
the Bishops' proposals. It said that details of the provisions for
those who could not accept women bishops "must be clear before
General Synod is asked to proceed", and that it would welcome
"provision of a dispute resolution procedure overseen by a
On Sunday, the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Peter Broadbent,
tweeted: "Opponents lost their last chance of legislation with Nov
debacle." He also wrote: "There will still be provision (I've just
rewritten the London Plan), and pockets of Other Culture, but not
mainstream to C of E."
On Wednesday, Bishop Broadbent said that the London Plan had
been reviewed by the bishops of the diocese, in the light of the
appointment of the new Bishop of Fulham, and was being reviewed by
the Deans of Women's Ministry. "I think we were operating with a
certain lack of clarity wth the previous Bishop of Fulham."