THE legislative package for the introduction of women bishops in
the Church of England returned to the General Synod on Tuesday.
During the course of the day's debates, the Synod agreed to shorten
the period of time allowed for the reference to diocesan synods.
Thus a woman could be appointed bishop in the early part of
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James
Langstaff, introduced the series of debates on women in the
episcopate by alluding to a prayer of Sir Francis Drake. "'To
endeavour any great matter'," he said, "we are neither at the
beginning, nor yet is it thoroughly finished. Rather, we are at the
stage of 'continuing in the same' - a stage often requiring a good
deal of work, not least on matters of detail and sensitivity."
He set out what the Synod was being asked to do: to agree a
tighter timetable for the reference to dioceses; to set about
replacing the provisions of 1993 with new provisions, including
rescinding the 1993 Act of Synod; to pass the revision stage of the
Draft Measure; and, first of all, to debate the House of Bishops'
Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests, together with
the draft Regulations for the Resolution of Disputes Procedure.
"When the time comes, it will be for the House [of Bishops] to
make the Declaration and the Regulations, but the motion before us
asks Synod to 'welcome' them," he said.
He explained that the Bishops' Declaration included some
amendments that the Synod had debated last November, including the
majority required if a PCC were to pass a resolution seeking
provisions under the Declaration.
"It will not be sufficient just to secure a simple majority of
those present," he said, "There will need to be either a majority
of those present at the meeting attended by at least two-thirds of
the members, or a majority of the entire membership, irrespective
of how many attend the actual meeting."
This, he said, would "avoid a minority of the PCC frustrating
the wish of the majority simply by absenting themselves when a vote
was to be taken".
The Bishops had also introduced "some transitional provisions"
between the 1993 provisions and the new provisions. Bishop
Langstaff emphasised that the new Declaration "does not claim to
resolve every detail of every issue".
"On the basis of the five guiding principles, it and the
Disputes Resolutions Procedure set out a great deal," he said,
"and, perhaps, just as importantly, it establishes a framework, not
least of relationships, within which other issues may be
He concluded his speech by saying that "serious discussions"
were "under way and will continue" regarding questions about "the
supply of one or more bishops who hold a conservative view on
headship" and the "liturgical arrangements" for the consecration of
bishops in the traditional Catholic position.
Prebendary Rod Thomas
(Exeter) raised concerns about the issue of oath-taking. For
some, the very taking of an oath implied an act of submission, and
they would find it a "difficult hurdle to overcome". He had asked
last November if a footnote could go into the House of Bishops'
Declaration "to make it clear that supplied bishops had authority
under their orders and the legal right to do so under delegated
He was very grateful indeed to the House of Bishops for their
consideration of that potential footnote, but he understood the
"nervousness" about changing the draft Declaration. Could it then
appear in the guidance notes that that the House of Bishops was in
the process of drafting? He also raised concerns about the impact
of the new arrangements on individuals who had "sensitivities about
the whole issue of male headship" which were not shared by their
It would be "helpful" if the guidance notes from the House of
Bishops could emphasise the importance of sensitivity to the
position of individuals. He concluded: "The upshot is that we are
still engaged in honing what we have so carefully put together and
that carefulness won't necessarily be reflected in all voting
Despite outstanding issues, he was "still keen to play a
positive role in what has been a positive process. My own
constituency needs to play a part in actively publishing materials
that show how we could indeed be helped to flourish within the new
(Rochester) reminded the Synod that the Church of England was
part of the wider Anglican Communion, in which there was no
consensus on the ordination of women. He highlighted paragraphs
9-13 of the draft Declaration, which concerned reciprocity. He
suggested that "true reciprocity would say that in the dioceses
where the diocesan bishop does ordain women, they should ensure
that a bishop fully committed to the ministry of traditional
Anglicans and clergy is given a role across the whole diocese for
providing support for traditional Anglicans and their clergy".
Paragraph 12 should emphasise the need to provide both for women
clergy and those who "take a traditional line". The Crown
Nominations Commission should not be able to "exclude someone from
one or other integrity".
Canon Simon Killwick
(Manchester) welcomed the slightly revised draft Declaration and
draft Regulations and hoped for an "overwhelming" vote in favour of
them, and that the package would progress "quickly and smoothly
through its remaining stages". He, too, was sorry that the footnote
referred to by Prebendary Thomas "did not quite make it", but
understood why the steering committee had been "nervous". It would
have helped to "bring mutual agreement on this package".
The Synod had been "blessed by the degree of reconciliation that
has taken place recently through this process", and he expressed
his gratitude to David Porter. They had secured the equivalent of
the Good Friday Agreement, but this would require further work:
"After so many years of conflict, we really do need to work hard on
Christina Baron (Bath & Wells) said that
the Church had been operating the equivalent of the US Army's
"don't ask, don't tell" policy when it came to bishops' views on
ordaining women. "If a diocese wants strongly a bishop who ordains
women, than that diocese will look at who is available, will read
their writings, will ask questions, and will find out whether
somebody is willing to ordain women or not," she said.
"You're not allowed to ask [the bishop], and the diocese is not
allowed to put it in its statement of needs, but they will find
out. We all pretend we don't, but we have been operating a
dishonest policy for 20 years." She said that she strongly welcomed
the new process which would be in place once the House of Bishops'
draft Declaration was approved, which would make the process more
Tim Hind (Bath & Wells) urged the Synod to
read the legislation on women in the episcopate in a positive
light. "I want to get away from constrictive legislation, and
towards enabling legislation," he said. "So often our legislation
has been in place to prevent something." He said the Declaration
was in fact a "freeing way forward".
Sue Slater (Lincoln) said that the Bishops'
Declaration had to be the basis for an ongoing process of
reconciliation. She said: "I'm particularly pleased we have reached
a position where we can all say we accept each other's orders and
we accept that, though there is theological disagreement, we are a
Church that has the right to make this decision."
Her children often asked her why she continued to be a part of a
Church that did not want her as a woman. "My answer continues to
be: 'I know that God has created us equal in God's image, and the
only way to get things to change is to stay here and continue to
talk to people who disagree with me on this issue.'" She longed for
a time when she could talk to her children about the gospel rather
than church structure.
Sarah Finch (London) said that she was "very
grateful" to hear that consideration was being given to the supply
of conservative Evangelical bishops. "At present, we have not a
single bishop of this type, and yet the conservative Evangelical
constituency contains many growing churches."
The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, explained
why the House of Bishops declined to include a footnote to the word
"entrusted" in paragraph 29 of their Declaration, saying that its
inclusion might cause "confusion".
"If we were to learn from the Houses of Parliament, when a law
is being passed, rarely are footnotes put into it. But the debate
is available on Hansard, so that if there is a dispute, a judge can
look back to see what was intended."
He said that, in the same way, the Independent Reviewer would be
able to look back to Synod debates to see what the House of Bishops
intended. "A footnote would make the simplicity of the Declaration
Lois Haslam (Chester) said that she felt
"something of the excitement Moses must have felt as he approached
the Promised Land. We have wandered around the women-bishops
legislation for many, many years, and we are now approaching the
Promised Land. It's exciting.
"We've listened, we've heard, we've acknowledged the other side
needs consideration, we have our five principles, and we're now
ready to move forward to the Promised Land."
The Revd Paul Cartwright (Wakefield) described
himself as a "product of the Act of Synod", which had given him the
confidence to pursue his vocation. He recognised why the Act had to
be rescinded, but he "wanted to put on record how well it has
served the Church", in particular, in putting in place "provisions
for people like me, lay and ordained".
"Women bishops are long overdue," Timothy Allen
(St Edmundsbury & Ipswich) said. "The lamentable slowness of
General Synod has done, and continues to do, great damage to the
mission and reputation of the Church."
He congratulated Archbishop Welby for "so remarkably spurring on
the previously sedate synodical procedure into a hell-for-leather
gallop in this final furlong".
He said that progress was particularly urgent, because the Crown
Nominations Commission had been "so busy recently that there is a
fear that the shallow lake of male diocesan bishops may have been
(Chelmsford)expressed concern at the "speed at which we are
going". She referred to concerns raised by others in the debate so
far, and also spoke of the "dishearteningly vague" language about
Canon Pete Spiers
(Liverpool) was "not entirely clear" about paragraph 19 of the
Declaration, and referred to a "slight confusion between the PCC
and parish". Could the House of Bishops' guidance include
information on what might happen in the build-up to a PCC meeting
to discuss a resolution?
The Synod voted to welcome the draft House of Bishops'
Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests and the draft
Resolution of Disputes Procedure Regulations as set out in GS
THE Synod then moved on to the revision stage of the Draft
Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
and Draft Amending Canon No. 33.
Dr Paula Gooder (Birmingham) moved that Clause
1 stand part of the Measure.
Dr Lindsay Newcombe (London), vice-chair of
Forward in Faith, said that she had been encouraged by how
conversations between the various sides had been "refreshing and
positive" since last year. "I believe that there is a will to stop
battling each other and talking past each other," she said. "I feel
we have come to an agreement that the mission of the Church is more
important than our feelings of difference from our brothers and
Nevertheless, she also said that she hoped that the Synod would
understand that she would be unable to vote for the Measure as a
matter of conscience.
Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) said that he
wanted to honour the praying and thinking that had led the Church
to this interim stage in the journey towards women bishops. "As we
consider this momentous Clause 1, we are not in a state where some
are happy and some not," he said. "All of us are mixed, I
Canon Cotton said that he believed that the legislation held
both faithfulness to church tradition and a "freshness" that
recognised things had changed. "And if that is a puzzling mixture,
we can do so confident, because God and God's word is both faithful
The motion was carried.
Bishop Langstaff proposed that Clause 2 stand part of the
Measure. Canon Simon Taylor (Derby) then spoke to
his proposed amendment to Clause 2, which would seek to reintroduce
protections against discrimination, based on the Equality Act, in
the choosing of bishops. "The Equality Act offers protection for a
wide range of people on the basis of not just gender but disability
and age," he said. "Clause 2 makes it clear we do need to be able
to discriminate to make appropriate provision. But I remain
troubled that the exclusion of bishops from Equalities Act about
disability and age may have unintended consequences."
He then said that he would withdraw his amendment, as he had
been told it would threaten the passage of the overall draft
Measure, which he supported.
The amendment was withdrawn by unanimous consent.
Dr Philip Giddings (Oxford) said that the term
"public office" here had a very specific legal meaning, and the
draft Measure was not in any way moving away from the belief that
bishops did hold a public office and were subject to the rules of
Bishop Langstaff echoed Dr Giddings and said: "I would like to
remind Synod that the legal office note to Clause 2 makes the point
that it does not imply any retreat from the public square nor any
change in our understanding of the public role of bishops - in fact
it puts bishops into exactly the same position as members of the
House of Lords, government ministers, and even the Prime
Clause 2 was clearly carried.
Clive Scowen (London) introduced his amendment
to insert a new Clause 3. He sought to avoid any doubt about
whether someone acting in accordance with a PCC resolution not to
accept a women priest could be challenged in the courts. He said:
"We were told that the risk was very small, but it does exist none
the less. Its very existence could have a chilling effect on the
willingness of patrons and lay representatives to act in accordance
with a resolution for fear of having to defend a challenge."
Mr Scowen said that his amendment would save bishops time and
money in defending a legal challenge by stating that anyone acting
in accordance with such a resolution would be doing so as an
expression of a "strongly held religious conviction" that had an
exemption in the Equality Act.
Bishop Langstaff urged the Synod to reject the amendment,
because, if it were carried, the Measure would then not secure
parliamentary approval. "We cannot in the end guard against legal
challenge with 100-per-cent assurance."
The House of Bishops' Declaration did make it clear, however,
that a PCC resolution should be honoured, and that the diocesan
bishop should act as the guarantor of this process. There was "no
doubt at all" that such a resolution "held on the grounds of
strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of
those worshipping in the parish" was permitted by the Equality Act
as an exemption.
The Revd Mark Steadman
(Southwark)echoed Bishop Langstaff's request to the Synod to resist
the amendment, whose consequences would be "very serious". It
"suggests there is doubt in the Measure or Equality Act, and there
isn't". As long as PCCs behaved "appropriately and lawfully", then
"all will be well."
Mr Scowen's amendment was lost.
The Synod then approved Clauses 3 to 4, the Schedule, and the
Long Title without debate. This completed the revision stage of the
Draft Measure, which was committed to the steering committee in
respect of final drafting.
Bishop Langstaff then moved that Clauses 1 to 6 stand part of
Draft Amending Canon 33. The Synod agreed: ayes 304, noes 33, with
45 recorded abstentions.
MOVING the first consideration of theDraft Act of Synod
rescinding the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993, Bishop
Langstaff acknowledged that the Act "evokes a variety of reactions,
some rather strong".
The Act would "now be superseded by the combined efforts of the
new Measure, Amending Canon, House of Bishops' Declaration, and
Regulations for the Disputes Resolution Procedure".
An Act of Synod was not legislation, he said, but "a means of
giving formal publication to any instrument or resolution of the
Synod as 'the embodiment of the will or opinion of the Church of
England as expressed by the whole body of Synod'".
It was "unsatisfactory" that "Act of Synod" sounded so much like
"Act of Parliament", as "the synodical equivalent of an Act of
Parliament is, of course, a Measure."
The rescinding of the Act of Synod would not abolish the
episcopal sees of Beverley, Ebbsfleet, or Richborough, as they
exist as a result of the Suffragan Bishops Act 1888 rather than the
Act of Synod. "The current holders of those posts, if they are
still in office at that point, will remain in office and, if they
leave at some later date, the relevant Archbishop will be able to
appoint a successor.
He said that, while the title "Provincial Episcopal Visitor" and
the description of the ministry was currently set out in the Act of
Synod, "the House of Bishops sees no reason why the present titles,
roles, and financial arrangements need to be changed simply because
the Act of Synod disappears."
The Archdeacon of Buckingham, the Ven. Karen
Gorham (Oxford), said that the 1993 Act had caused "distress,
confusion, and incredulity". It had become a "fence to keep us
apart". The winners were "only fear and doubt". The Church now
needed to be mature and "live together out there in the world".
Canon Simon Butler (Southwark) urged the Synod
to carry the motion, but acknowledged that some had found the 1993
Act "life-enhancing". In a "different and changed environment", the
current package of legislation "offers us the opportunity to walk
together in trust and fellowship".
Adrian Vincent (Guildford) agreed that it was
necessary for the Act of Synod to go, but he returned to concerns
voiced earlier about the provision of bishops for traditionalists.
The 1993 Act said that "no person shall discriminate against
candidates for appointing to senior office on grounds of views on
the ordination of women to the priesthood." But this would be
replaced by paragraph 12 of the House of Bishops declaration, which
allowed dioceses to produce a statement of need specifying that
they wanted a bishop who did ordain women. More work was needed on
Dr Sentamu described the history of the 1993 Act, devised by his
predecessor Lord Habgood, who had solved the conundrum. It had
tried to give expression to the view that both parties in the
matter of women priests were loyal Anglicans. He argued that he was
sorry to hear from some speakers that it had made some people feel
like second-class citizens, "In some parts it kept the peace and
kept people in the Church of England."
The motion was carried.
AFTER adjourning for lunch, the Synod went on to debate a
Business Committee motion to suspend Standing Order 90(b)(iii)
relating to the Article 8 reference to the dioceses.
Chairing the debate, Geoffrey Tattersall QC
(Manchester) explained that the Business Committee was proposing to
shorten the time available to diocesan synods to consider the draft
legislation; and that any such proposal to suspend the Standing
Orders of the Synod would require a 75-per-cent majority. The vote
on the proposal would, therefore, be a division of the whole
Canon Sue Booys (Oxford), who chairs the
Business Committee, explained that Article 8 of the Synod's
constitution said that a Measure or Canon providing for a permanent
change in the services of baptism or holy communion or in the
Ordinal should not be finally approved by the Synod unless the
change had been approved by the majority of diocesan synods.
The standing orders allowed for a six-month period for Article 8
references to be debated; but the Business Committee wanted to
speed up the process so that "the remaining stages of the
legislation" could be taken in July. Diocesan secretaries had
already been put on notice that the deadline for answers could be
midnight on Thursday 22 May, and this was what the Business
Committee was now proposing.
There were reasons to do so, she said, including the fact that
the dioceses had already approved legislation on women bishops by
42 to two; and that there was a strong desire in the Synod and the
wider Church to make rapid progress. In addition, the new
legislation was part of a package that had had overwhelming support
in the General Synod, and "will not in practice be susceptible to
further significant change".
There was something to be said for "getting the legislation
through the Synod and into the parliamentary process in July rather
than November", as they are about to enter the final year of the
Parliament. "We should never lightly depart from normal process,
but the Standing Orders themselves set down a process, which we are
following, for dealing with unusual circumstances in unusual days,"
"This is a highly unusual set of circumstances. Indeed, I am not
aware of any previous occasion since the creation of the Synod in
1970 when legislation on the same subject has had to go to the
Canon David Banting (Chelmsford) urged the
Synod to resist: "I think the decision to amend the Standing Order
is unprecedented, irresponsible, and unnecessary, as well as being
unhelpful. . .
"The dioceses have already debated women-bishops legislation,
but they have not discussed or understood or owned this package.
The dioceses need more than this immediate and shortening window so
that they can pass it to deaneries and parishes who only heard of
this six weeks ago, and have had no time to adapt for it." Canon
Banting condemned what he called a "hell-for-leather dash towards
Christina Rees (St Albans) said that the Synod
had never rushed in its long debates on women's ordination and
consecration to the episcopate. "We are keeping faith in the
dioceses and honouring the desire of the wider Church to have women
bishops," she said.
It was also important to take into account Parliament's desire
to pass women-bishops legislation quickly, she said. "Waiting for
as long as the six months when it is possible to do otherwise will
not help those who remain opposed in principle to having women
bishops," she said. "What it will do is continue to allow the
Church and this Synod to be held up to ridicule."
The Revd Charles Read (Norwich) said that, as
the Church had been debating the ordination of women since 1920,
the pace had, if anything, been too slow, not too fast.
"Ninety-four years does seem rather a long time. People in my
church wonder why the Synod drags its feet. . . I'm sorry if it
feels far too quick in some parts of the country, but in the
diocese of Norwich we are used to a rather brisker pace of
Canon Deborah Flach (Europe) said that the
diocese in Europe would be happy to waive the normal six-month
Prebendary David Houlding (London) said that he
had been speaking on this topic for many years, and, even though he
disagreed with Christina Rees, he believed the time had come to
move forward on it. "Christina and others are right: there is no
point in delaying."
The Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete
Broadbent (Southern Suffragans),suggested that Canon Banting had
made the mistake of suggesting that "we can solve pastoral problems
through the Article 8 reference." It was "unlikely" that the
dioceses would have changed their minds from the last time they
considered women bishops legislation. Bishops needed to start
having "pastoral conversations about how we will enact this stuff"
with those in their dioceses who would require provision.
Susie Leafe (Truro)spoke of "the pressure for
us to get with the programme". But the morning's debate had shown
that "issues are still there and will still be there." Every poll
and vote had suggested that about 25 per cent of regular
worshippers had theological convictions that meant that they would
seek provision under new arrangements. It was "vital" that diocesan
synods, churches, and deaneries had time to understand the "package
in which they are being asked to participate".
This was a "complex" package. She warned: "We are missing an
opportunity to build trust in every place where trust is most
Kay Dyer (Coventry)noted that in the diocese of
Coventry, and perhaps others, deanery elections were due in June.
Suspending the clause of the Standing Orders to enable the vote to
be speeded up would allow "people following this carefully to take
it through to the end".
(Canterbury)cried: "How long, O Lord, how long must we do this?"
The "brisk pace has turned into very slow walk", she warned.
"Wasting our time is not the way forward."
April Alexander (Southwark)said that the Church
would not see the gifts of some women as bishops "because we have
waited too long. . . We do need to reflect a little on the damage
we have been doing to ourselves and the people we serve over the
last 25 years."
The Synod carried the motion by 358 to 39, with nine recorded
abstentions. It read:
That paragraph (b)(iii) of Standing Order 90 be suspended
until the end of the group of sessions to be held in November