IF NOT arguably at the "hell-for-leather gallop" suggested by
one member, the passage of the women-bishops legislation proceeded
at a brisk pace on Tuesday morning.
The morning's votes were carried with comfortable majorities.
Both the draft Declaration from the House of Bishops and the draft
procedure for the resolution of disputes were welcomed, with few
queries from the floor.
The Draft Measure and Draft Amending Canon were both revised
swiftly, although revision was in full Synod, without a Revision
Committee. Amendments concerning the Equality Act fell, after
speeches reassuring parish representatives and patrons that
sufficient protection against claims under this legislation was in
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff
(above), who chaired the steering committee that produced
the new package, acknowledged that "We cannot in the end guard
against legal challenge with 100-per-cent assurance." But there was
"no doubt at all" that a PCC resolution "held on the grounds of
strongly held religious convictions of a significant number of
those worshipping in the parish" was permitted by the Act.
The Synod also carried first consideration of the rescinding of
the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993 - part of the provision
for those unable to accept the ministry of women priests.
Finally, members voted to suspend a clause of the Standing
Orders to reduce from six months to three months the period of time
that diocesan synods will have to vote on the draft legislation
when it is referred to them.
Objections were raised to this.
Susie Leafe, director of Reform, spoke of "the pressure for us
to get with the programme". 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 and it was "vital" that diocesan synods, churches, and
deaneries had time to understand the "package in which they are
being asked to participate. . . We are missing an opportunity to
build trust in every place where trust is most needed."
The Synod voted, however, in favour of the procedural motion by
an overwhelming majority of 358 to 39, far in excess of the 75 per
Christina Rees, speaking as a member of WATCH, argued 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
diocese and honouring the desire of the wider Church to have women
bishops," she said. Delay would "continue to allow the church and
this Synod to be held up to ridicule and our credibility will be
Prebendary David Houlding, a traditionalist, agreed with Mrs
Rees that there was no benefit from any delay.
Speaking at a press conference after the vote, Bishop Langstaff
said that the first woman bishop could be appointed "in the early
months of next year".
"It is one thing to make something possible and another thing
for it to happen," he said. The Crown Nominations Commission would
"need to believe that that person is the right person for that
The Synod will vote on giving the package final approval in
Canon Simon Killwick, who chairs the Catholic Group in the
Synod, said that he hoped for an "overwhelming" vote in favour of
the Draft Declaration and dispute- resolution procedure, and that
the package would progress "quickly and smoothly through its
remaining stages". The Synod had been "blessed by the degree of
reconciliation that has taken place recently through this