The General Synod of the Church of England has reaffirmed itscommitment to women bishops and called, less than a year after theprevious proposals were rejected, for new draft legislation to beintroduced. It will be considered by the Synod in November 2013, withthe aim of reaching the stage of Final Approval in July or November2015.
This was the first time Synod members hadmet since November 2012, when the previous draft legislation narrowlyfailed to secure the requisite majority in the House of Laity, despiteenjoying the support of 73% of the Synod’s members overall.
The Synod reached its decision at the end of thistoday’s debate, after its members had devoted much of Saturday tofacilitated discussions on the options available. Introducing thedebate, the Rt Revd Nigel Stock, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich,who chaired the Working Group set up by the House of Bishops to adviseon new legislative proposals, said, “I believe that option one, togetherwith a mandatory mediation process and including as it does adeclaration or, possibly, Act of Synod deserves to be taken veryseriously as a means to provide the basis for securing the necessarymajorities in the lifetime of this Synod.”
The House of Bishops had recommended thatdraft legislation be prepared on that basis described as ‘option one’ inthe report of the Working Group established by the House to considerpossible ways forward. That involved:
- a measure and amending canon that made it lawful for women to become bishops;
- the repeal of the statutory rights to pass Resolutions A and B under the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure 1993, plus the rescinding of the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993; and
- arrangements for those who, as a matter of theological conviction, are unable to receive the ministry of women bishops or priests, set out either in a declaration from the House of Bishops or in a new Act of Synod. (The possible content of such arrangements is set out in paragraphs 52-62 of the annex to GS1886:
Accepting the proposal made by the House, the General Synod passed the motion, by 319 votes to 84, in the following form:
‘That this Synod:
(a) reaffirm its commitment to admitting women to the episcopate as a matter of urgency;
(b) instruct the Appointments Committee to appointthis month a Steering Committee to be in charge of the draft legislationrequired to that end;
(c) instruct the Business Committee to arrange forthe First Consideration stage for that draft legislation to be taken atthe November 2013 group of sessions, so that the subsequent stages canfollow the timetable set out in paragraph 141 of the annex to GS 1886;
(d) instruct the Steering Committee to prepare thedraft legislation on the basis described in paragraphs 79-88 of theannex to GS 1886 as ‘option one’ with the addition of a mandatorygrievance procedure for parishes in which diocesan bishops are requiredto participate and invite the House of Bishops to bring to the Synod forconsideration at the February 2014 group of sessions a draft Act ofSynod or draft declaration to be made by the House to accompany thedraft legislation; and
(e) urge that the process of facilitatedconversations continue to be used at significant points in theformulation and consideration of the draft legislation.’