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.
In a note to the General Synod, released last Friday, 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 women-bishops
legislation and Declaration.
The Archbishops have also offered a measure of reassurance to
traditional Anglo-Catholics about the consecrations of bishops who
would minister to them under the new conscience provision. Forward
in Faith welcomed the recognition that "special arrangements will
be needed in respect of presidency and laying on of hands at some
consecrations, in response to the theological convictions not
merely of those to be consecrated but also of those to whom they
A two-thirds majority in every House of the Synod is required
for final approval. A statement from the campaigning group WATCH
(Women and the Church), which held a press conference last Friday,
says: "The vote is expected to be close. This is the same Synod
that did not pass the previous legislation in November 2012, and
the same people will be voting, so the vote is likely to be tight."
It urges Synod members to abstain if they cannot vote in favour of
The Synod's secretary general, William Fittall, said last Friday
that expectations in the Church were high, and, if it were
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 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 consecration."
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 by 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 of the Church. No consecration duly
performed by either Archbishop as principal consecrator would be
Forward in Faith's response, signed by the Bishop of Fulham, the
Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, says in part: "We trust that all that is
implied in the statement about the need for appropriate
arrangements will be honoured. . . If a female bishop were to
preside or share in the laying on of hands at such consecrations,
that would plainly frustrate their purpose. Male bishops who have
joined in consecrating the women concerned will surely wish to show
solidarity with them on such occasions.
"We agree, naturally, with the statement which the Archbishops
make regarding the exercise of their own ministry of ordination. We
are pleased to note that the matter of presidency at ordination
services has not been foreclosed, and we look forward to further
consideration of this important question."