Welsh governing body: women bishops

02 May 2014

PHILIP MORRIS

Clear code: the Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson

Clear code: the Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson

THE Canon to allow women to be elected and consecrated as bishops in the Church in Wales was passed last September, and comes into force this September. The Canon requires the Bench of Bishops to publish a code of practice detailing provision for theological objectors.

The matter returned to the floor of the GB for "an open forum with no motion, movers, or seconders" as the "third and final stage of a process of consultation undertaken by the bishops", His Honour Judge Philip Price, who chaired the session, explained.

As part of their consultation process, the bishops first received written submissions. This was followed by a series of open meetings in each of the dioceses.

The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy Jackson (Llandaff), said that the code of practice should contain a preamble that set out that the Church "no longer considers it legitimate to discriminate on the grounds of gender".

It should have a sell-by date, saying that "anybody confirmed after 20 September 2014 should not be able to reply on the conscience provisions", she said, because "after that date they have voluntarily joined a Church that accepts women bishops."

Canon Tudor Hughes (St Asaph) said that traditionalists would want "a clear statement . . . that those who in conscience cannot accept the ordination of women as bishops continue to be within the spectrum of Anglicanism for as long as a period of reception exists within the churches of the Anglican Communion."

Susan Way (Llandaff) said "there is an overwhelming need [for] alternative episcopal oversight . . . to enable us to have the security to remain within the Church that we love."

The code of practice was "for a time of transition", Jenny Wrigley (Llandaff) said. "For those who woke up [the day after the vote last September], and were disappointed, the code of practice needs to say to those people, 'We want to be gracious in this time of transition.' But it is a fact that this Church in Wales is a different Church from what it was at the beginning of September last year."

Sandy Blair (co-opted) said that the guidance needed to offer "a willingness to honour and respect those who currently in conscience cannot accept the situation. I would find it inexplicable that we continue to allow future vocations or ordinations from persons who cannot support what is now our Church's policy."

Dr Gillian Todd (Swansea & Brecon) said that the code should be "simple" and tested. "When you introduce any new policy or procedure, you need to be able to test it." She wanted the Bench of Bishops to test whether the code that they proposed will help move the Church forward.

The Revd Steve Bunting (co-opted) was "engaged to a soon-to-be woman priest whose mother is a senior female cleric in the Church of England". He warned against "vetting candidates . . . for their theological beliefs": "If we restrict the selection of people and the training of people based on some of their theological beliefs, we are going to impede the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church forward."

The Revd Jan Gould (Llandaff) said that the period of reception was "only applicable to those confirmed before the Bill became law last September. . . If they are choosing to make that reaffirmation [of their baptism vows] in a Church which, in law, permits women to be bishops, then they should not be able to claim special treatment for disagreeing with that principle."

Carol Cobert JP (Llandaff) said that at every induction and ordination, the priests had to pledge that they "accept the Canons of the Church in Wales".

The Revd David Lewis (St Asaph) said that he was worried by phrases such as "a period of reception", because "it seems to suggest that good priests . . . are somehow going to change their opinion during that period of reception. The truth is, they are not."

Susan Last (St Asaph) said that "it seems to make sense that confirmation is the cut-off date," but added that "things change." She said: "All I would urge is that the code of practice puts into place something to care for those who are hurt."

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