THE appointment of a Church of England bishop who holds a
conservative Evangelical view of "headship" could take place within
months, if the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are successful in
their efforts to ensure that this "aspiration" is met.
They say that they are consulting with a view to this, because
they recognise that such an appointment is "important for
sustaining the necessary climate of trust" around the new package
of draft legislation and other provision for the consecration of
women bishops in the C of E, and the safeguarding of the
consciences of church people who are opposed to the change.
A note (GS Misc 1079) from the Archbishops on women in the
episcopate was released at Friday's media briefing in Church House,
Westminster, before the final-approval vote that is on the agenda
for next month's General Synod meeting. For this vote to be
carried, a two-thirds majority is required in every House of the
Synod. The previous draft legislation for women bishops was lost
when it narrowly failed to achieve two-thirds in the House of Laity
in November 2012.
Speaking at the briefing, the Synod's secretary general, William
Fittall, told reporters that expectations in the Church around the
new draft legislation were high, and, if it were similarly
defeated, he would expect "shock and bemusement" to exceed anything
that had occurred in 2012; but it was "far from clear that the
House of Bishops would go back to the drawing board. The Church
would be in new and uncharted territory."
The Archbishops' note recognises that "it is evident that to
date the normal processes for appointing diocesan and suffragan
bishops have not delivered the aspiration to appoint a bishop who
holds the Conservative Evangelical view on headship. It is also
unclear whether the processes are capable of doing so within a
"We are therefore now consulting others with a view to ensuring
that the aspiration is met within a matter of months."
The Archbishops' note also refers to the issue that "once the
episcopate is open equally to all irrespective of gender, there
will be some bishops who will unable in conscience to participate
in the laying on of hands at some services. There will also be new
bishops who, because of the theological convictions held by them
and those to whom they will minister, will have concerns about who
presides and shares in the laying on of hands at their
The Archbishops say, however, that the arrangements for
consecrations will remain in their hands, under the Royal Mandate.
"After careful thought and prayer we do not believe that an attempt
to offer detailed prescriptions as to how consecration services
should be conducted in every circumstance would help to establish
the relational framework offered by the five guiding principles"
(that were drawn up the House of Bishops as the basis of the new
Nevertheless, "As Archbishops we will exercise that
responsibility in ways that exemplify the five guiding principles,
enabling bishops to serve across the spectrum of our teaching and
tradition. Any special arrangement to which we may agree in
particular cases will arise out of a spirit of gracious generosity,
and will involve only such departures from the norm as are
necessary to fulfil the spirit and purpose of the Declaration and
to maintain the peace and unity fo the Church. No consecration duly
performed by either Archbishop as principal consecrator would be
Canon law in the C of E requires at least three consecrators to
take part, one of whom is the Archbishop of the province or another
bishop appointed to act on his behalf.
The General Synod will meet over the weekend from 11 to 15 July.
Other items on the agenda include safeguarding matters, new draft
baptism services, a presentation by the Revd Jim Wallis, and others
on the Armed Forces Covenant, and on the new Churches' Mutual
Credit Union, a motion on clergy vesture during the time of divine
service, and another concerning the 800th anniversary of Magna
Carta in 2015.
The president of the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany,
Dr Irmgard Schwaetzer, will address the Synod as an ecumenical