WATCH London on the amendments to legislation on women bishops

Updated Thinking Anglicans has a statement from the National WATCH committee here.

It includes:

7. WATCH has grave concerns about the amendment to Clause 5 and the WATCH committee cannot support the Measure as it now stands. However, it will fall to General Synod members , to make up their own minds and decide whether, in good conscience, they can support the legislation as amended.

8. Our consultation suggests that the amended Measure is at grave risk of being voted down by the very Synod members who most strongly support women becoming bishops. It is a tragedy that after so much work and so much compromise, this should be the situation a month before the final vote.

WATCH London thinks through the issues regarding the current legislation that would allow women to become bishops. Hat tip to the Rev. Jacqueline Cameron:


Statement on The House of Bishops' Proposed Amendment to the Women Bishops Legislation

Dear WATCH (London) Members
The London Committee met recently to discuss the House of Bishops’ amendments to the Women Bishops Legislation as agreed by the 42/44 dioceses.
An extensive discussion took place at the committee who also took into account responses from members. London WATCH contributed these observations to the National WATCH committee. The following is a brief account containing the main points.

A full and detailed “Statement of Concerns” from National WATCH will be coming to all members later in the week.

House of Bishop’s Amendments and Implications

Clause 8 Delegation and Derivation
While the amendment to clause 8 would have been best left unsaid, it is in effect a clarification.

Clause 5(1)(c)***
The amendment to clause 5(1)(c) was agreed to be a real cause for concern. It shifts the need to provide an alternative male bishop of a particular theological outlook to petitioning parishes from the authority of the diocesan bishop, under the guidance of a code, to a legal requirement contained in the Measure. Apart from now being assumed into Law should this amendment be passed it could result in unexpected interpretations, as what legally would constitute a ‘theologically acceptable’ bishop to certain parishes?

The concept of Taint and the provision of a “pedigree” of bishops of a certain kind will be embedded in Law. The message this gives, about the how the Church of England views ordained women will be seen as encompassing all women, is discriminatory not in keeping with the good news of the Gospels and the message that, “in Christ we are all one”. It is therefore not acceptable.

A number of concerns were raised:

The amendment could lead to a minefield of legal action between congregations and bishops over the interpretation of which bishop might be acceptable.

Similar provisions had been brought to the revision committee and rejected after a great deal of thought and discussion. Why is it right to return to this idea now without proper debate? The amendment has not been subject to the discernment of the Church’s synods; instead it has been imposed by the House of Bishops at a late stage. This may be their right but they have ignored the will of the Church and the representations made to them not to amend the previous measure. Much generosity had been given by those who support women bishop in the previous measure. This has been unrecognised by the House of Bishops.

As a result of the amendment, the Church could find itself with three different episcopates: the ‘Standard’ bishops (male and female), ‘Society’ bishops ministering to traditional Anglo-Catholics, and ‘Declaration’ bishops allied to GAFCON who would minister to conservative evangelical congregations. Such fragmentation of the episcopate would be schismatic.

The terms of the measure have been further tipped in favour of those objecting to women’s ministry – there is no reciprocity for parishes with those who are in favour of and support ordained women to request an inclusive bishop in place of their own who is against.
Enshrining the right to a theologically-acceptable bishop in law makes this provision almost impossible to remove in the future.

Other key points included:

The desire for bishops to be related to the whole of the Church, not just one strand
Might we have been moving in the wrong direction from the beginning in supporting legislation containing so many compromises?

Opposing the amended legislation should not be seen as a reason for blame – rather as a principled stand, consistent with the position we have held right through these discussions, and in harmony with the desire of the wider Church, and indeed British society, to stop women being marginalised within the Church structures and excluded from positions of authority.

After some debate, the committee was minded not to support the amended legislation, though ultimately the decision will rest with individual member of General Synod.

***The new clause 5(1)(c) specifies that the Code of Practice must provide for
the selection of male bishops or male priests the exercise of ministry by whom is consistent with the theological convictions as to the consecration or ordination of women on grounds of which parochial church councils have issued Letters of Request.

Comments (2)

It seems odd that there is no parliamentary procedure to reject the amendments in preference to the original legislation.
That said failing to pass the amended legislation is a three fold win for the schismatics. 1) it pushes the inauguration of women bishops off to some future time,. 2) they get what they want with respect to oversight anyway cause GafCon is already on the ground. 3) it sows further enmity between people and existing bishops for proposing these amendments.

Good job Rowan!

Michael, General Synod can itself vote to ask the Bishops to reconsider their amendments. If they retire to another room and do so, the unamended legislation could then be voted on.

This is not terribly unlike what sometimes happens at GC, when one house adds something the other doesn't like. The other house then takes it out and sends it back. A different solution to a similar problem when you have Bishops acting as an independent body -- one more reason I'm for a unicameral G.C.! (G.S. is unicameral, but the Bishops have the power to "do" things apart from the rest of Synod. What Rowan wanted for us. Thanks. NOT!)

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