Church of England advances legislation for female bishops

Church of England bishops on September 13 approved by a large majority the text of legislation that would enable women to become bishops. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Church of England bishops on September 13 approved by a large majority the text of legislation that would enable women to become bishops. Photo: Marites N. Sison
By on September 13, 2012
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Church of England bishops on September 13 approved by a large majority the text of legislation that would enable women to become bishops.

The bishops also made clear their desire for the draft legislation to be passed into law when it goes forward for final approval at the church’s General Synod in November, according to a news release from the Anglican Communion News Service.

Speaking at the conclusion of their meeting, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said: “Since women were first made priests in the Church of England in 1994, their ministry has hugely enriched both church and society. It has become increasingly clear to most of us that barring women from becoming bishops is an anomaly that should be removed, for the good of the Church’s mission and service.”

The bishops approved a revised section of the legislation that said the church’s Code of Practice would cover “the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds” on which traditionalist parishes ask for a new priest or an alternate to the diocesan bishop.

The former wording, rejected by General Synod in July, would have stated that the code should cover “the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration of women” of the traditionalist parish.

“In July this year, the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to reconsider an alteration it had made to the proposed legislation on this subject. The bishops have taken very seriously the anxieties expressed about the possible implications of their amendment and there has been widespread consultation since then. We are very grateful for all the points and suggestions offered by synod members and others,” Williams said.

He noted that the revision was submitted by a female priest, the Rev. Janet Appleby of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wallsend, Tyne & Wear, near Newcastle.

“I am convinced that the time has come for the Church of England to be blessed by the ministry of women as bishops and it is my deep hope that the legislation will pass in November,” Williams said.

In discussion, the bishops welcomed the simplicity of the new text, its emphasis on respect and the process of dialogue with parishes that it will promote, ACNS said.

The House also agreed to establish a group to develop the illustrative draft Code of Practice published in January to give effect to the new provision.

The full vote on the legislation takes place at the meeting of the General Synod of the Church of England which meets in London from November 19 to 21. For the legislation to pass it will require a two thirds majority in each of the houses of bishops, clergy and laity.

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