The women bishops legislation is not fit for purpose
Simon Killwickexplains why the legislation is unfair, unstable and incoherent; that it does not command consensus; and why there is a better way forward
There is no legally binding provision for minorities; instead a Code of Practice is proposed, to which bishops would ‘have regard’. The only form of appeal against a bishop’s decision would be judicial review, which few parishes could afford.
Bishops provided for traditionalists would not have proper oversight as bishops; they would just be allowed to conduct services. There would be no guaranteed future supply of bishops for traditionalists.
There is no legal prohibition on discrimination against traditionalist candidates for ordination.
Traditionalists would become second-class Anglicans served by second-class bishops.
The Code of Practice cannot be decided until the legislation has become law. Supporters of the legislation have already stated that they will oppose any further provision being made for traditionalists in the Code of Practice. There would be more years of in-fighting before the Code was agreed.
The Code could be changed at any time, meaning that any provision it made for traditionalists could be whittled away over time.
The application of the Code would vary from one diocese to another – a postcode lottery.
The draft legislation would oblige male bishops to delegate certain functions to male bishops – a pointless exercise! It needs to be more specific and to provide for religious conviction.
The House of Bishops amendment stating that the Code of Practice shall give guidance as to the selection of delegated male bishops is not enough: (a) the details should be in the legislation itself; (b) the word ‘respects’ has no legal definition – meaning that the amendment is not prescriptive of the contents of the Code; the Code is therefore an unstable instrument.
Major changes in Church order require a clear consensus; this is why legislation like this needs a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses of the General Synod, in order to pass. At no stage in the process so far has this draft legislation achieved the required majorities in the Synod, meaning that there is no clear consensus.
Supporters of the legislation realize that there is not enough consensus, and are resorting to unprincipled attempts to pressurize those opposed to the legislation to abstain, rather than to vote against, as their consciences would dictate.
A better way would be to follow the example of the Church in Wales, whose Governing Body rejected unsatisfactory legislation for women bishops, and is now looking at a new process with two linked pieces of legislation, one to provide for women to be made bishops, and the other
to provide for traditionalists; the legislation for women bishops cannot come into force until the legislation providing for traditionalists has been passed. Such an approach would lead to the prayerful and reconciling dialogue the CofE now needs in order to move forward.
Return to Trushare Home Page
Return to Home Page of This Issue