THE pivotal votes of a small number of members of
the General Synod who helped to defeat the women-bishops Measure in
November 2012 have swung to the Yes camp.
The earlier Measure was lost by six votes in the
House of Laity. Instrumental to the defeat were a handful of
members who, despite being in favour of the consecration of women
as bishops, voted against the Measure, prompted by a concern that
it did not offer enough provision for those who were opposed on
Five of these members told the Church Times
this week that they now planned to vote in favour.
"The Measure that is before us this month . . . is a
totally different animal," Tom Sutcliffe (diocese of Southwark)
said on Tuesday. "It makes suitable provision for most of those who
don't believe women can or should be bishops and priests. . . If
the Measure now before us were to fail, I think it would be a total
Keith Malcouronne (diocese of Guildford) concurred:
"The focus of the new package has shifted. The dog's breakfast of
43 diocesan schemes and an as-yet-unwritten Code of Practice that
emerged from the legislative wringer in 2012 would not, in my
judgement, have kept the whole Church of England together in
healthy mutual respect and flourishing, which the current package
Mary Judkin (West Yorkshire & the Dales) said on
Wednesday that the new Measure had secured "a much more of an
honoured place" for those who could not accept women bishops.
"I am quietly confident that it will go through."
Two other Synod members, who asked not to be named,
indicated that they, too, would vote in favour.
The news will be welcome to Synod managers, who have
shown signs of nervousness about the vote on 14 July.
Although happier than before, traditionalists will
vote against the new legislation on principle. On Tuesday,
Prebendary David Houlding, a member of the Catholic Group,
expressed his hope that the Measure would go through. But he said
that he and other traditionalists would vote against it: "I don't
expect people to abstain from the Catholic side at all.
"My colleagues and I think it is a good package deal,
and I don't believe we will get anything better on the table again.
We would be very foolish not to welcome it." But, he said, "People
who in conscience remain opposed to the principle are, none the
less, duty-bound to vote against it. We cannot vote for it.
Abstention is a waste of a vote."
Conservative Evangelicals on Synod are even more
adamant. On Tuesday, Prebendary Rod Thomas, chairman of Reform,
said that he expected most in his party to vote against the
Measure: "Those who have always in principle been against women
bishops are going to want to register that principle in their
voting. . . Reform is clear that this is a wrong move for the
Church." But he did pay tribute to the "very real and genuine
attempts that have been made to find a way forward".
A sixth switched vote in the House of Laity comes
from Adrian Vincent, who describes himself as "half Anglo-Catholic,
half Evangelical" with "some theological reservations" about the
ordination of women. He said on Tuesday that, having voted against
in 2012, he would vote in favour this month.
"What has persuaded me to vote in favour this time is
the House of Bishops' statement of five principles," he said.
"The risk is that that is a statement of intent and there isn't
really a legislative provision backing it up; so I will be stepping
out in faith, as it were."
Dr Katharine Jefferts
Question of the week: Should the
women-bishops legislation now be passed?