THE House of Bishops has expressed regret that “not nearly enough” was done to create an understanding of the practical outworking of the settlement that accompanied the Women Bishops Measure.
An Implementation and Dialogue group has been established to help the Church “engage in further consideration of the issues”.
In a response to Sir Philip Mawer’s independent review into Bishop Philip North’s nomination to the See of Sheffield (News, 22 September), the Archbishops, speaking on behalf of the House, express “regret that, as Sir Philip concluded, not nearly enough was done to create an understanding of what the Declaration and Settlement would mean in practice”. They say that the House “whole-heartedly accepts” all four of the review’s recommendations.
Among these was the establishment of “a group with balanced membership to review what has been done; distil examples of good practice within dioceses; and provide resources to help dioceses, deaneries and parishes, and theological training institutions to engage in further consideration of the issues”. The question to ask, he said, was “what would mutual flourishing look like — for me, for you, and for the Church — and what do I need to do to ensure it is achieved?”
The new group will be chaired by the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd James Langstaff, supported by the Bishop of Aston, the Rt Revd Anne Hollinghurst. The membership includes the chair of WATCH, Canon Emma Percy; the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas; and the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker. The vice-chair of the House of Laity, Elizabeth Paver, is the only lay member.
Also published, in response to Sir Philip’s recommendation that the House ask the Faith and Order Commission to “examine the theological challenge” posed to the settlement, is a new guide produced by the Faith and Order Commission: The Five Guiding Principles: a resource for study. It is available free of charge online.
The statement confirms that the secretary general of the Archbishops’ Council, William Nye, has begun to implement Sir Philip’s call for a review of the nomination process, looking at how the national Church institutions support it.
Sir Philip suggested that one of the issues to explore was “the extent to which the cloak of confidentiality currently surrounding the work of the CNC [Crown Nominations Commission] can be relaxed in order to ensure the degree of preparation for the announcement of a nomination commensurate with the controversy it is likely to arouse”. In his theological review of the CNC, the Revd Professor Oliver O’Donovan, praised the confidentiality of the discernment process (News, 26 January).
The Archbishops’ statement says that Sir Philip’s recommendations will be “developed in the implementation plan” for Professor O’Donovan’s review. It says that the bishops are “indebted” to Sir Philip, whose term is drawing to a close, and announces that Sir William Fittall is to succeed him, from this week.
The announcement was welcomed by Forward in Faith, the traditionalist grouping in the Church of England. A release posted on Thursday greeted the publication of the new study guide, stating: “We hope that widespread study of this booklet will prevent recurrence of the misrepresentation of the Five Guiding Principles that occurred in 2017.”