Women Bishops Legislation:
A Statement from the Catholic Group in Synod
A quarter of Church of England Dioceses vote for proper provision for traditionalists
While Dioceses showed overall support for women bishops, a quarter of Dioceses voted for proper provision to be made for hose who are unable in conscience to accept the oversight of women bishops. This figure is highly significant, given the
need for a two-thirds majority for the legislation in all three Houses of General Synod; put bluntly, the legislation needs to be amended if its safe passage through the Synod is to be guaranteed.
The legislation as currently drafted provides neither for conservative Catholics in the Church of England, who need bishops and priests ordained by male bishops, nor for conservative Evangelicals who could not accept the oversight of a woman bishop on scriptural grounds. It relies on a Code of Practice to fill out its provisions – a draft of the Code will be discussed by the House of Bishops in December, and by the General Synod in February. General Synod members will want to scrutinise the draft Code carefully to see how the draft legislation is seen as working in practice, and whether it provides fairly and graciously for the significant minority of traditionalists.
It is likely that the February Synod will also debate a motion calling on the House of Bishops to exercise its powers to amend the Measure in the manner of the amendment jointly proposed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in July 2010 – an amendment which commanded an overall majority of the Synod at the time, and could have gone a long way to meeting the needs of traditionalists.
40% of the members of the current Synod are new; it is vital that they have the opportunity to consider these issues properly before the Synod comes to the Final Approval vote in July 2012. Members of the current Synod have already expressed their disquiet on legislation passed by the previous Synod, when they took the unprecedented step last July of refusing to approve a new Parochial Fees Order made under legislation passed by the previous Synod – effectively blocking implementation of that legislation.
Canon Simon Killwick, Chairman of the Catholic Group in General Synod, said, ‘Final Approval of the current draft Women Bishops legislation is not a foregone conclusion; the best way to secure its safe passage would be to amend it to provide properly for traditionalists; modest amendment of the legislation, together with a suitably drafted Code of Practice could yet enable the Church of England to move forward together on women bishops in 2012. Failure to amend the legislation could result in the failure of the legislation at Final Approval, which would delay the introduction of women bishops for many years to come.’
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