Saturday, 19 July 2014

We are history

We are delighted to be closing down this website, based on the rather wonderful announcement from the Church of England below.

Church of England to have women bishops

The General Synod of the Church of England has today given its final approval for women to become bishops in the Church of England.

The vote in the General Synod on the measure was carried by the required two-thirds majority in the three constituent parts of the Synod:  the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.

The voting results were as follows:

House of Bishops: Yes 37 No 2 Abstentions 1
House of Clergy: Yes 162 No 25 Abstentions 4
House of Laity: Yes 152  No 45 Abstentions 5

This means the first woman bishop could potentially be appointed by the end of the year.

Today's vote comes 18 months after the proposal was last voted upon in November 2012 when the proposal failed to achieve the required two thirds majority in the House of Laity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:

"Today is the completion of what was begun over 20 years with the ordination of women as priests. I am delighted with today's result. Today marks the start of a great adventure of seeking mutual flourishing while still, in some cases disagreeing.

The challenge for us will be for the church to model good disagreement and to continue to demonstrate love for those who disagree on theological grounds. Very few institutions achieve this, but if we manage this we will be living our more fully the call of Jesus Christ to love one another. As delighted as I am for the outcome of this vote I am also mindful of those within the Church for whom the result will be difficult and a cause of sorrow.

My aim, and I believe the aim of the whole church, should be to be able to offer a place of welcome and growth for all. Today is a time of blessing and gift from God and thus of generosity. It is not winner take all, but in love a time for the family to move on together."

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, said:
"This is a momentous day. Generations of women have served the Lord faithfully in the Church of England for centuries. It is a moment of joy today: the office of Bishop is open to them.

To those who ask "what took you so long?" my answer is that every decision has a cost and there will be those within our body who will be hurting as a result of this decision. Our answer to the hurting should not be "get over it" but rather "we will not let go until you have blessed us."

We move slowly because we move together. But in moving together we achieve not only what is just but also model what is right. As the African Proverb says: "Whoever walks fast, travels alone. Whoever walks far, walks in the company of others."

The Synod also approved an Amending Canon, together with an Act of Synod which will rescind the 1993 Act of Synod when the Canon is 'enacted' (ie formally made) by the Synod.
The Measure, Canon and Act of Synod are part of a package which also includes a Declaration made by the House of Bishops (which amongst other things sets out five 'guiding principles') and Regulations, to be made once the Canon is enacted, providing for a mandatory disputes resolution procedure.

Following today's vote the Measure will be submitted by the Synod's Legislative Committee to the Ecclesiastical Committee of Parliament, which will produce a report on it.  If it is to pass into law the Measure must subsequently be approved by both Houses of Parliament.  If they approve it, it will receive the Royal Assent and be brought into force by the Archbishops.
The Canon can then be returned to the Synod, in November if the Parliamentary processes are completed sufficiently quickly, so that it can be formally enacted.  It is at that point that the law will be changed, so as to allow women to be consecrated as bishops."
Monday, 7 July 2014

The final vote?

On 14 July, General Synod will for the second time hold a final approval vote on legislation to admit women to the episcopate. Just 15 months since the last legislation failed, we face another crunch vote with significant implications for the future of the Church of England.  Despite passing by the required two thirds majority in the Houses of Bishops and Clergy in 2012, previous legislation fell six votes short in the House of Laity and Synod was sent back to the drawing board.

Whilst Synod is made up of the very same individuals as were in role 15 months ago, this vote will take place in a very different mood from the last attempt. Prayerful engagement and discussion between supporters and opponents of women bishops, and strong leadership from our Archbishops and Bishops, has transformed the context for this vote. We are hugely grateful to everyone involved in this process.

And so, we encourage all our supporters to pray with us that the Holy Spirit will guide Synod members as they decide how to vote.  It is with great joy that we saw the legislation overwhelmingly endorsed by all 42 diocesan synods which were able to meet and vote on it, including both of those which rejected the last legislation, so we approach the final vote with a spirit of hope.

It seemed unimaginable after the legislation fell in November 2012 that in less than two years new legislation could be passed. And yet, it is obvious to any observer that the outcome of this vote is by no means certain, so we pray for the outcome this time to conclude this process.

We are also acutely aware that for some, this development is difficult and troubling. We pray especially for them now, that they will take heart from the positive engagement over the past 15 months, and the commitments made by the Bishops for their continued place in the Church.
Friday, 21 March 2014

Legislation on its way: running tally of diocesan votes

The process for legislating to admit women to the episcopate now requires that the the latest rules are sent to the 44 dioceses of the Church of England for each of them to vote on.  Last time round 42 of these passed the legislation, with just London and Chichester narrowly voting against.

We're hoping for a clean sweep this time to send a clear message to general synod that this measure has the broad support of the Church.  So with thanks to Peter Owen, we'll be keeping the running score available here as and when the votes come in.

Diocese Bishops Clergy Laity Result date  
  For Against Abs For Against Abs For Against Abs      
Bath & Wells 1 0 0 59 3 1 57 1 0 carried 22 Mar 2014  
Birmingham 1 0 0 33 2 1 37 0 1 carried 22 Mar 2014  
Blackburn 2 1 0 31 19 2 50 14 1 carried 3 Apr 2014 link
Bradford 1 0 0 31 0 1 37 0 2 carried 22 Mar 2014  
Bristol 2 0 0 13 0 0 21 2 0 carried 29 Mar 2014  
Canterbury 1 0 0 34 3 1 52 3 1 carried 8 Mar 2014 link
Carlisle 2 0 0 33 1 0 37 2 1 carried 15 Mar 2014  
Chelmsford 4 0 0 50 7 0 55 11 1 carried 1 Mar 2014  
Chester 2 0 0 37 10 3 48 7 3 carried 21 May 2014 link
Chichester 1 1 1 36 22 2 54 20 0 carried 17 May 2014 link
Coventry 2 0 0 21 0 1 33 0 0 carried 12 May 2014 link
Derby 2 0 0 25 3 0 25 5 1 carried 10 May 2014 link
Durham 2 0 0 32 2 0 49 2 1 carried 17 May 2014  
Ely 1 0 0 33 3 0 41 5 2 carried 15 Mar 2014  
Europe                     unable to meet deadline  
Exeter 1 0 0 42 11 2 53 5 2 carried 17 May 2014 link
Gloucester 2 0 0 35 0 0 45 1 1 carried 1 May 2014 link
Guildford 1 0 0 34 3 2 36 1 3 carried 1 Mar 2014 link
Hereford 1 0 0 35 0 0 33 0 1 carried 29 Mar 2014  
Leicester 2 0 0 29 6 0 42 2 1 carried 17 May 2014 link
Lichfield 3 0 0 44 2 0 44 9 3 carried 22 Mar 2014  
Lincoln 1 0 0 57 3 0 43 2 1 carried 29 Mar 2014 link
Liverpool 1 0 0 45 1 1 50 0 2 carried 22 Mar 2014 link
London 3 0 0 40 10 7 43 17 1 carried 15 May 2014 link
Manchester 3 0 0 37 8 2 45 6 2 carried 22 May 2014  
Newcastle 2 0 0 41 2 1 36 3 1 carried 7 May 2014 link
Norwich 3 0 0 37 4 1 31 2 0 carried 29 Mar 2014  
Oxford 3 0 0 47 3 0 57 1 3 carried 22 Mar 2014 link
Peterborough 1 0 0 45 2 2 40 4 7 carried 22 Mar 2014 link
Portsmouth 1 0 0 36 1 2 31 1 3 carried 29 Mar 2014 link
Ripon & Leeds 1 0 0 37 0 0 35 1 2 carried 1 Mar 2014 link
Rochester 1 0 0 44 7 3 46 6 4 carried 21 May 2014  
St Albans 3 0 0 46 3 1 65 0 4 carried 15 Mar 2014 link
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich 1 0 0 48 0 2 62 0 1 carried 1 Mar 2014  
Salisbury 2 0 0 35 0 3 48 1 2 carried 15 May 2014 link
Sheffield 2 0 0 24 8 1 29 8 0 carried 8 Mar 2014 link
Sodor & Man 1 0 0 18 2 0 35 0 1 carried 6 Mar 2014 link
Southwark 3 0 0 45 6 0 62 6 4 carried 8 Mar 2014 link
Southwell & Nottingham 0 0 0 29 2 0 29 1 0 carried 5 Apr 2014 link
Truro 2 0 0 26 1 0 37 2 0 carried 10 May 2014 link
Wakefield 1 1 0 41 8 2 30 9 1 carried 8 Mar 2014 link
Winchester 2 0 0 37 5 1 45 4 0 carried 15 Mar 2014 link
Worcester 2 0 0 23 0 0 36 1 0 carried 30 Apr 2014 link
York 2 0 0 32 1 0 40 1 4 carried 10 May 2014  
TOTALS 75 3 1 1557 174 45 1824 166 68      

Saturday, 18 January 2014

New year, new measure, new hope?

Happy new year!

It isn't long after we add the wise men to the nativity set before the agenda for the next session of General Synod in February gets us thinking about our hopes for women bishops in 2014.

Let's start with a recap of where we got to in 2013.  If we're honest, it was a bit of a surprise for us how quickly and positively the year went.  A year ago, we were digesting the disastrous failure to pass the measure to admit women to the episcopate in November 2012.  There was little hope of substantive progress in 2013, with a blocking minority established in synod and positions on all sides appearing to harden.

Nevertheless, strong leadership from the House of Bishops and positive facilitated conversations between the key campaigning groups and within synod changed the mood.  By the end of the year, synod had overwhelmingly approved a package with a simple motion to remove all legal discrimination against women in the episcopate, along with a draft declaration from the House of Bishops to provide provisions for those who cannot accept women bishops for genuine theological reasons.

But there is still a long way to go.

We are now at the point where the draft legislation must go through the process of revision.  This is the stage which puts the detailed wording of the legislation to a high degree of scrutiny to ensure it is sound and workable.  In an innovation for this process, this process will be conducted in the main session of General Synod, rather than a small committee, to help the measure proceed as quickly as possible.  

Whilst this measure is very simple, there remains a danger that amendments are made during the revision process which introduce elements of discrimination, so we urge synod members to keep the legislation unamended through the revision stage.

After revision, comes referral to the dioceses.  At this stage, each diocesan synod is required to debate and vote on the proposed legislation.  It will only proceed if more than half the dioceses approve.  The previous legislation was approved by 42 of the 44 dioceses, so it is unlikely that it will fall at this stage.

After the dioceses, the legislation can return to General Synod for final approval.  This is the point at which the vote requires a two thirds majority in favour, in each of the three 'houses' within Synod - Bishops, Clergy and Laity.  Whilst there is the potential for the minority who blocked the measure last time to reassert their blocking minority, we are encouraged that in November 2013, General Synod approved this package with an overwhelming majority in all three houses.  This vote achieved a far greater majority than was ever achieved during the progress of the previous legislation.
So our prayer for 2014 is to see the final completion of the legislation this year.  

This will be remarkable speed (for the Church of England).  We are grateful to all who have participated in 2013 for the progress made.  These thanks go particularly to those who are opposed to women bishops but have approached this process with a fresh heart and an open mind, to Justin Welby and the House of Bishops who have pressed for continued dialogue when it felt hopeless.

We're not there yet.  But we begin 2014 full of hope.
Sunday, 17 November 2013

The new proposals explained

The beginners guide to the new draft legislation on women bishops.
With kind permission from Dave Walker

The measure allowing women bishops is very simple.  It is copied in full at the bottom of this post.  Most of the wording relates to legislative technicalities.  The important stuff, theologically speaking, is contained in a single clause, with just three sub-clauses.

The legislation states that it will become lawful for women as well as men to be priests and bishops.  


However, that isn't the end of the package.  In addition, the deal reached in the Steering Committee which drafted this legislation included two other related components.

The first of these is a declaration from the House of Bishops, with a draft prepared for them by the Steering Committee (page 16 on).  This declaration makes clear that the Church of England has reached a clear and unequivocal view on the issue of ordained women's ministry, but also recognises that those who maintain theological objections to that position remain within the spectrum of Anglican teaching and tradition on the matter, so the Church of England is committed to ensuring a place for their flourishing.

This declaration sets out that Parochial Church Councils may pass a resolution such as, "This PCC requests, on grounds of theological conviction, that arrangements be made for it in accordance with the House of Bishops’ Declaration on the Ministry of Bishops and Priests.", which would trigger arrangements for alternative episcopal oversight.  The resolution also provides guidance on a number of the controversial issues which proved sticking points in the last legislation, such as the appointment of incumbents and the choice of bishop to provide alternative oversight.

What seems to have changed the game this time round, however, is the final piece of the puzzle - a mandatory grievance procedure (draft from page 24 on).  This provides a mechanism for those who are not satisfied by the arrangements put in place or the behaviour of their bishop to put their complaint to an independent reviewer.  This seems to have done the job of providing a greater degree of assurance to those who will be seeking alternative episcopal oversight that they will be treated properly.

The crucial question is whether this package will get through Synod's 'two thirds majority' requirement, where the previous package failed.  The signs are looking good at this point.  The Steering Committee which produced this legislation contained senior members of the major groups both in favour and opposed to women bishops, and we hear from the Archbishops that there were no opposing votes when the package was put to a final vote in the Steering Committee.  We've also had a statement from Forward in Faith, the main Anglo-Catholic group opposed to women bishops, saying that this package is better than the last and that they will recommend their members abstain, rather than oppose, provided it remains in tact.


Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure

1 Provision for consecration of women as bishops and for continuation of provision for ordination of women as priests
  1. It shall be lawful for the General Synod to make provision by Canon for enabling women, as well as men, to be consecrated to the office of bishop if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who 5 may be consecrated as bishops. 
  2. It shall continue to be lawful for the General Synod to make provision by Canon for enabling women, as well as men, to be ordained to the office of priest if they otherwise satisfy the requirements of Canon Law as to the persons who may be ordained as priests. 
  3. The Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993 (No. 2) is repealed. 

2 Amendment of Equality Act

In Schedule 6 to the Equality Act 2010 (c.15), there is added at the end—


4 The office of diocesan or suffragan bishop is not a public office.”.

3 Repeals

The enactments mentioned in the Schedule are repealed to the extent specified in the second column of the Schedule.

4 Citation, commencement and extent
  1. This Measure may be cited as the Bishops and Priests (Consecration and 20 Ordination of Women) Measure. 
  2. This Measure comes into force on such day as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York may jointly appoint. 
  3. Subject to subsections (4) and (5) this Measure extends to the whole of the Provinces of Canterbury and York except the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 
  4. This Measure may be applied to the Channel Islands, as defined in the Channel Islands (Church Legislation) Measures 1931 and 1957, or either of them, in accordance with those Measures. 
  5. If an Act of Tynwald or an instrument made under an Act of Tynwald so provides, this Measure extends to the Isle of Man, subject to such exceptions, adaptation or modifications as may be specified in the Act of Tynwald or instrument. 

Looking ahead to the November General Synod session

Synod member Rebecca Swinson gives us an update on what will be happening at the November Synod session.

This week, General Synod will be meeting for 3 days from 18th to the 20th November.  I'm sure that the significance of these dates will not be lost on many as it will be a year since the final appoval vote to allow women into the episcopate was defeated.

The agenda for this group of sessions is again dominated by this issue although there has been a change in approach. On Tuesday we will meet in small groups to reflect on the legislation before the main debate on Wednesday. During the main debate, we will look at both the report from the Steering Committee and then whether the draft legislation and amending canon are considered for revision in the full Synod or in a revision committee. If done in the full Synod, this would be probably be done in February and the legislation can then be referred to the dioceses.

Of course, this is not the only issue on the agenda. Alongside various other pieces of legislation,  synod will be discussing the Church School of the Future report, evangelism, a diocesan synod motion from London looking at how synod conducts its business and how lay representatives are elected. All of these are important and substantial issues in their own right.

Please pray for the whole of Synod during the week, particularly as we meet in our small groups and debate the proposed legislation. The Church of England have released a synod 'prayer guide', which maybe helpful. Although it has been a long road,  we have made considerable progress since July. It is important to be thankful for those who have given up their time to continue working on this issue over the past few months.
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