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.

Bath & Wells10059315710carried22 Mar 2014 
Birmingham10033213701carried22 Mar 2014 
Blackburn2103119250141carried3 Apr 2014link
Bradford10031013702carried22 Mar 2014 
Bristol10013002120carried29 Mar 2014 
Canterbury10034315231carried8 Mar 2014link
Carlisle20033103721carried15 Mar 2014 
Chelmsford400507155111carried1 Mar 2014 
Chester          21 May 2014 
Chichester          17 May 2014 
Coventry          12 May 2014 
Derby          10 May 2014 
Durham          17 May 2014 
Ely10033304152carried15 Mar 2014 
Europe          unable to meet deadline 
Exeter          17 May 2014 
Gloucester          1 May 2014 
Guildford10034323613carried1 Mar 2014link
Hereford10035003301carried29 Mar 2014 
Leicester          17 May 2014 
Lichfield30044204493carried22 Mar 2014 
Lincoln10057304321carried29 Mar 2014link
Liverpool10045115002carried22 Mar 2014link
London          15 May 2014 
Manchester          22 May 2014 
Newcastle          7 May 2014 
Norwich30037413120carried29 Mar 2014 
Oxford30047305713carried22 Mar 2014link
Peterborough10045224047carried22 Mar 2014link
Portsmouth10036123113carried29 Mar 2014link
Ripon & Leeds10037003512carried1 Mar 2014link
Rochester          21 May 2014 
St Albans30046316404carried15 Mar 2014 
St Edmundsbury & Ipswich10048026201carried1 Mar 2014 
Salisbury          15 May 2014 
Sheffield20024802980carried8 Mar 2014link
Sodor & Man10018203501carried6 Mar 2014link
Southwark30045606264carried8 Mar 2014link
Southwell & Nottingham00029202910carried5 Apr 2014 
Truro          10 May 2014 
Wakefield11041823091carried8 Mar 2014link
Winchester20037514540carried15 Mar 2014link
Worcester          30 Apr 2014 
York          10 May 2014 
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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