It appears that the Church of England is taking the final steps on the road to consecrating female bishops. This is slightly ironic in a church whose mother country has had female heads of state (several Queens and one Prime Minister, albeit Margaret was a right-wing maniac) before.
LEGISLATION to bring in women bishops passed its first hurdle in General Synod when it was carried by a majority of about two-thirds during a debate on Wednesday morning.
The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, who chairs the legislative drafting group which drew up the proposals, moved that the Measure be considered for revision in committee.
He said that the debate marked a new stage in the process, and that “it is open season once again, and everything is reviewable”. He also spoke of the difficulty faced by the drafting group in trying to strike a balance between prescription and flexibility.
He said the final code of practice would come from the House of Bishops, and warned that there would be searching and unwelcome dilemmas over the next 18 months. “Let none of us expect others to set aside convictions that they hold as deeply as our own. Instead, let each ask what it might mean for each of us to go the extra mile for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Christina Rees, from the group Women and the Church, expressed concerns over the proposal for specially nominated suffragan sees, and questioned the relationship these bishops would have with the House of Bishops. She suggested that aspects of the provisions perpetuated the idea of a woman being a “flawed creation”.
The Bishop of Beverley, the Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, urged Synod to reject the proposals. He said the legislation failed to solve the central problem of jurisdiction, and that no code of practice could compel a priest holding traditionalist views to come under a bishop they could not regard as a true father in God.
The Archbishop of Canterbury explained that he abstained from the vote in the July Synod because he felt the Measure did not make adequate provision for those who opposed women bishops, and that he wanted to back something that was good news for everyone.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, criticised the draft legislation, which he said left episcopacy “damaged and fractured”. He was pessimistic about being able to find a satisfactory way forward, and said that opponents would not find the proposals satisfactory and might well leave for another Communion, leaving the Church “pressed into deeper schism”.
More than 80 Synod members requested to speak during the debate, but many did not get the chance.
After a final summary by Bishop McCulloch, the motion that the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) be considered for revision in committee passed by 281 votes to 114, with 13 abstentions.
The linked Draft Amending Canon No. 30, which will alter legislation from the 17th century, also passed comfortably, by 309 votes to 79, with 14 abstentions.