MEMBERS of Parliament competed to have the first woman bishop
appointed in their constituency, as the House of Commons passed the
Bishop and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure
The debate marked the end of the Measure's parliamentary
journey. It received Royal Assent on Thursday and is set to be
promulged at the General Synod in November.
The MP for Kingston upon Hull North, Diana Johnson, put in "an
early bid", describing the bishopric as "an ideal starting-place
for the first woman bishop in the House of Lords". The MP for
Gloucester, Richard Graham, then suggested that the Church should
not miss the "fantastic opportunity" to appoint a woman in his
The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry, said
that there was "some competition from around the country", and he
referred to the imminent vacacy in the see of Oxford.
MPs who spoke on Monday welcomed the Measure. Frank Field
suggested that being able to choose from both sexes would
"strengthen our [the C of E's] hand". In 2012, he suggested that
the talent among bishops was "at such a low ebb" that the CNC had
had to appoint an Archbishop of Canterbury "who had hardly got his
bishop's cassock on".
Traditionalists were represented by Robert Neill, who spoke of
the "generous" approach of Anglo-Catholics, and the desire to avoid
undermining dialogue with "our Catholic and Orthodox brethren". The
Church was committed to providing a place for traditionalists, Sir
Tony said, "without a limited time". Ms Johnson later asked whether
such a limit might be considered.
Helen Goodman emphasised that "it is not for Parliament, or
politicians, or even the Government, to lay down the theological
grounding"; but Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, argued
that "We . . . should have forced this change through far earlier."
He asked "all bishops, whether flying bishops or not, to ask every
parish that went for Resolution A and B to reconsider".
Ben Bradshaw suggested that the response of Parliament to the
"terrible vote" at the General Synod in November 2012 had "really
made a difference".
Sir Tony reiterated the commitment to introducing a Bill to
fast-track women bishops into the Lords, and hoped that it could
take place in this parliamentary session.
AFTER promulgation of the
new canon at the General Synod on 17 November, each vacancy for a a
diocesan or suffragan bishop will be open to women.
A Church House spokesman
confirmed on Tuesday that this would include diocesan appointments
in Southwell & Nottingham, Gloucester, Oxford, and
Six suffragan sees are
vacant, but, as the diocesan bishop takes the lead on the
appointments processes, it is not clear how many of these will
still await an appointment after 17 November.
A spokesman for the diocese
of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, John Howard, said that a woman
could be considered for the see of Dunwich.
The dioceses of Chester and St Albans declined to comment.