Bishops in the Church of England are planning on “restarting” the process towards ordaining women to the episcopate with new legislation that can be passed next July.
THE legislative process to admit women to the episcopate should be “restarted” in July, when the General Synod meets in York, the Archbishops’ Council said this week.
During discussions at a residential meeting in Sheffield, on Tuesday and Wednesday, “there was agreement that the Church of England had to resolve this matter through its own processes as a matter of urgency,” a statement from Church House said.
“The Council therefore recommended that the House of Bishops, during its meeting in a fortnight’s time [on 10 and 11 December], put in place a clear process for discussions in the New Year, with a view to bringing legislative proposals before the Synod in July.”
Members of the Council had “commented on the degree of sadness and shock that they had felt as a result of the vote (News, 23 November) and also of the need to affirm all women serving in the Church – both lay and ordained – in their ministries”.
Those opposed to the consecration of women to the episcopate swear on a stack of Bibles that it was never their intention to derail women bishops, only that their interests would be respected. Still, their statement indicates that they are aware that they may have defeated their best hope for a mandatory alternate episcopate that must be imposed if a congregation simply asks for it.
The chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod, Canon Simon Killwick, and the chairman of Reform, Prebendary Rod Thomas, said on Wednesday that they had “received acknowledgement” from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of a request “for talks to break the deadlock” over women-bishops legislation.
They said in a joint statement: “If agreement can be reached at round-table talks on fresh legislation which provides clearly and fairly for all members of the Church of England, there is no reason why fresh legislation should not be fast-tracked through the Synod before the next elections in 2015.
“It has never been our intention to prevent the consecration of women as bishops; our concern has always been for legislation which also made clear and fair provision for the substantial minority.”
Meanwhile, Bishops are gathering to find a way to fast-track new legislation. Different dioceses are initiating several forms of dialogue to get feedback and perspective from laity and clergy. Ramtopsrac, blogging at “Because God Calls”, has compiled a list of diocesan dialogues and meetings.
Durham, St. Albans, Oxford, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Southwark have met with clergy already, in some cases only with the female clergy, though in the case of St Albans all clergy/readers/laity have been asked to write with feedback
Bishops in Sheffield were meeting their clergy last night
Dover/Canterbury is holding a Eucharist and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec, which is open to all, not just clergy
Ely Bishops are hosting Eucharist, coffee and discussion on Saturday 1st Dec
Exeter are meeting Monday 3rd December
St Edmundsbury and Ipswich meet on 5th December
Southwell and Nottingham on 6th December
Liverpool meet (with only the female clergy) on 6th December
Chelmsford is hosting a Champagne breakfast (not sure when)
Gloucester is meeting all clergy next week for Eucharist, with lunch provided for discussions with female clergy aftewards
Coventry has planned a gathering for early December.
Church Times reports on moves to change the system of voting where delegates to Synod often voted against the measure in proportions exactly opposite the dioceses that sent them.
The campaign group for women bishops WATCH said that the voting among the laity showed that “there was a considerable discrepancy between the local and national voting patterns. When the legislation was debated at diocesan level, it achieved more than a two-thirds majority among lay people in 37 of the 44 dioceses.
“In Guildford, for instance, 70 per cent of lay members voted in favour at diocesan level, but three of the four General Synod members voted against. Had the General Synod members representing six dioceses chosen to reflect the views expressed by their diocesan synods, the Measure would have passed.”
Canon Rosie Harper, a member of the House of Clergy (Oxford), said that people in her parish felt “completely betrayed” by the fact that four of their lay Synod representatives had voted against the Measure, when the vast majority in the diocese was in favour.
She said that there would be “much lobbying for change in the system” governing how the House of Laity was elected. She suggested that the process of electing members of the House of Laity should be reformed: instead of deanery-synod representatives’ electing them, everyone registered on a parish electoral roll should be eligible to vote, she said.