Parliament pushes back on CoE bishop decision

UPDATE: see below

Frank Field, a member of Parliament in the UK has tabled a bill to make it illegal to discriminate against women in the Church of England:

In response to the vote Frank Field MP, a former member of the Synod, today tabled a Presentation Bill in Parliament which seeks to remove from the statute book the exemptions from the Equality legislation that the Church of England enjoys. If passed, the Bill would make it illegal for the Church of England to discriminate against women when appointing bishops, as they currently do.

Frank Field said: “This is a terribly disappointing result, which goes against the firm wishes of the vast majority of Church of England members. Parliament has a role in agreeing to or rejecting the Synod’s decisions, and I believe that MPs should now use this role, in a helpful way, to ensure those firm wishes are complied with.”

The Bill is supported by Diana Johnson, Natascha Engel, Elfyn Llwyd, Andrew George, Nicholas Soames, Roberta Blackman-Woods, Eleanor Laing and Helen Goodman.

The second reading of the Bill will take place on January 18th 2013.

*Tabling a Bill in the UK: to table means to move to place [the topic] upon the table (or to move to place on the table): a proposal to begin consideration (or reconsideration) of a proposal.


Bishops plan to meet December 10-11 according to the Bishop of Gloucester.

What will the next steps be in this process? The House of Bishops meets on 10th and 11th December and this will be the main item on our agenda. Papers are being prepared for that meeting scoping possible ways forward. These will, I think, include the possibility of bringing something back within the lifetime of this Synod though all sides acknowledge that fresh thinking is needed. As you will see from the voting figures, the Bishops of the Church of England are very largely of a common mind on the question and I think very determined to press forward and to offer clear and determined leadership. However it will be some weeks before we reach a conclusion on what the next steps will be.

More from The Telegraph – statement from former Archbishop Carey

Posted by

Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted. We also ask that you limit your comments to no more than four comments per story per day.

  1. I support women Bishops in the CoE and was disappointed that the measure did not pass. At the time, I sort of faintly remembered having read something that the parliament might could over-ride it with some type of equality measure. Vaguely remembered, as if in a dream 😉

    Deep down I hope this happens.

    All-the-while, I’m equally embarrassed that (what essentially amounts to) a non-church entity must force this church body to act justly. It isn’t the first time its happened and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

    The Bishops voted for it, as did the clergy, so I have to keep that all in mind. It was a recalcitrant laity that held things up. But I still like to believe that the Spirit of God finds a way, in spite of us.

    Tim Sean Youmans+

    Shawnee, OK

  2. I think Parliament cutting through this could be a really good thing. The life of our established church cousin in the U.K. includes legal responsibility for clergy to perform sacraments for people in one’s geographic parish (what we’d likelier call a catchment district) and running a large number of “church” schools that are state funded and include a majority Muslim population. Weirdly (to our thinking) some of our best Church of England colleagues see real evangelical opportunities in both of these legally defined church state partnerships. Our minority (from a population perspective) church cousin has privileges and opportunities that come with establishment. And certainly thinking back to the UK Church as our kin and ancestor, there are aspects of church life that we appreciate that were determined in the old country when King and Parliament were remaking a church independent of Rome. Separation of Church and State may be doctrine in our U.S. civil religion, but ongoing and determinative in one strand Anglicanism. Shouldn’t establishment also bring accountability? And could it just be possible that the Spirit could move to accomplish a needed renewal of the church through a Parliamentary vote? What are the possibilities for LGBT clergy in England if Parliament makes this move for women bishops?

  3. Jim Stockton

    If this Parliament bill truly would enable a priest who is a woman to be elected to the episcopacy, then it goes further than the proposal that failed to pass in the CofE. The CofE proposal foolishly, IMHO, included an ‘opt out’ clause that required bishops who are women to establish alternative male episcopal oversight for parishes and clergy that refuse to acknowledge a woman as their bishop. This would have sustained the second-tier status of women bishops, thus all women clergy, in the CofE. If the bill before Parliament is unequivocal, then it is the morally and spiritually superior of the two proposals.

  4. Michael Russell

    In just a few days each of ht 42 Dioceses that approved women’s ordination will see how their lay representatives voted. They may well notice that their will was scuttled by laity who ran for Synod positions with an Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic agenda to scuttle women’s inclusion in the Episcopate. We might hope they will not only be smart enough to not be snookered like this again, but that they will, frankly, clean their representational houses of those who’s intention is to thwart the will of the Diocese.

    I am hoping Parliament now removes the CofE’s exemption from the Equality Act which will result in NO latitude for those who sank this legislation because it didn’t give them enough. Let those Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic zealots now feel the full weight of the State requiring them to obey the law of the land, since they chose to sink the compromise legislation.

    Any frankly I doubt if any significant number of people or people of significant authority will rise up like they did for John Keble’s National Apostasy sermon.

    The beauty of a Parliamentary intervention is it lets all the whipsawed leaders of all the parties off the hook. They will have to make the changes, but they cannot justify punishing the CofE or being punished by the CofE for their behavior. Then the Bishops can write some fresh dithering Code of Practice that may or may not stand up to the Equalities act.

    Go for it Parliament!

  5. Is it me, or does anyone else find it ironic that TEC folks, whose country was founded on religious freedom and religion free of governmental control, are now actively rooting for Parliament to interfere in the C of E’s internal processes? Would we in TEC encourage the federal government to affirm our bishop elections? Just noticing that it appears that “the ends justify the means” is operative here…. And yes, I’m aware of the differing context.

  6. tgflux

    I think there’s a “The one that pays the piper calls the tune” factor here at work, Tom. Live by Establishment, get interfered w/ by Establishment.

    [Not to mention that I think we’re ALL familiar w/ examples of governments behaving in a more Christian manner than any of many Christian churches!]

    JC Fisher

  7. Abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and now marriage equality are all matters of significance in theological anthropology where state has led church, at least partly. And do we think church courts and pastoral oversight is adequate means for dealing with abusive clergy. Separation of church and state isn’t a matter of doctrine, doesn’t define us as Anglicans and even in U.S. practice the line isn’t sharp and we do count on courts and legislatures to shape and guide us too.

  8. Elizabeth Kaeton

    How ironic that it just might take the Government of England to tell the Church of England that they must live the Gospel.

  9. It was of course state interference in the ordering of episcopal structure (the arrangement of dioceses) that lead to the Oxford Movement, the leaders of which reaffirmed the apostolic and evangelical dependence of the church on God alone, and not on the fickle and sometimes-wrong opinions of the body politic. Establishment only makes sense when the country is still paying attention to the church.

  10. Jim Naughton

    I am uneasy about Parliament getting involved in this because the precedent (it may have happened before, but not recently) is dangerous. What if they were forcing the covenant down our throats. How would we feel about it then?

    That said, I am even more uneasy with the ieda that the church has a better means of reasoning toward moral conclusions than a democratic state. It leads directly and quickly to clerical exceptionalism.

  11. Jim, Given what you just wrote, what do churches bring to the moral discernment table? Doesn’t that rob us the capability of being necessarily countercultural when we need to be?

  12. billydinpvd

    Tom Sramek, unfortunately there is a general atmosphere of the end justifying the means in Anglicanism. Each party, for example, yearns to have the Canons strictly enforced against its opponents when doing so furthers its aims, but is quick to disregard the Canons (and sometimes the Gospel) when they stand in its way, citing the superiority of its own conscience in the matter. We’ve seen it with border crossings and women’s ordination and CWOB and the attempted secession of entire dioceses. If there is one Bible verse all Anglicans seem to live by, it’s Psalm 118:6a – “The Lord is on my side…”

    Bill Dilworth

  13. Parliament should not interfere here. Just like we in TEC have been shamed and humbled when the State has led the way in matters of justice and human rights, this will serve as a wake-up call to the C of E to do the right thing. And I do not believe it will be years, but months.

  14. Bill: the sentiment that “The Lord is on my side…” is not limited to the Anglican/Episcopal church, of course. I do think people react viscerally to a perceived threat to the status quo. Sometimes that threat is seen as a good thing, sometimes a bad thing, but it IS a threat. I always liked Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote: “…my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”

    I think that the more reasonable thing to do in this case, rather than Parliament interfering or otherwise questioning the process itself, is to ask those who voted no: “What prompted your no vote and how can we introduce a different measure that will gain your support?” At this point, you can afford to lose some votes in the House of Bishops and the House of Clergy if you can pick up a handful of votes in the House of Laity. That’s why the bar is set so high–so that a compromise is required. Or, perhaps a measure that did NOT include the compromise on alternative episcopal oversight (or whatever they called it) might have better luck. There is also the dynamic in play of “well, it is going to pass anyway, so I might as well cover my rear by voting no, since it won’t matter.” Then, when it turns out that it DID matter, people may have had second thoughts…

Comments are closed.