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Another step in female-bishop process in Church of England

Another step in female-bishop process in Church of England

The process for bringing the possibility of female bishops to the Church of England has taken another wary step forward.


A code-of-conduct amendment to original synodical legislation by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and (supported in 2012 by the bishop of the Diocese of Manchester) has been substantially amended by various parties.

The central question now is how much flexibility a six-member panel will be granted in interpreting the allowable amount of “substantial” change. As now amended, this legislation does not grant blanket power to that group.

A two-thirds vote will be required at July’s synod to continue moving ahead.

A few hours prior to the vote, Rev. Christina Rees, former Chair of Women and the Church, broke down the situation for Ruth Gledhill.

Guardian religion reporter Riazat Butt live-blogged day three of this Synod. One entry seems to sum up the moment.

Wow. OK. Well, in true Anglican fashion we are almost back to square one. General synod has voted to allow the House of Bishops to tinker with the legislation but not make substantial changes to it. As one person in the chamber said, it’s as if the debate never happened. The traditionalists have this to say:

“We welcome the fact the general synod is open to the possibility of the House of Bishops amending the draft measure, and call upon the house to do so in a way that will provide properly for those unable in conscience to accept the oversight of women bishops. The archbishops’ amendment is a long way from our original proposals for provision; what we are saying is that we are willing to work with it, or something like it, for the sake of the unity of the church. We are hugely grateful to Archdeacon Cherry Vann for moving the Manchester motion; she has shown great understanding, courage, conviction and love – love for God and for God’s people. We give thanks to God for Archdeacon Cherry, and assure the House of Bishops of our prayers as they discern the right way forward for the Church of England.”

Initial reaction from the pro-women lobby is that they are happy because they know the bishops can’t dramatically change the draft law. They’re not going to see a different law, that’s over and that’s what they wanted to avoid. It’s all baffling.

Here is a timeline from Thinking Anglicans:

Initially the motion from Manchester was moved. The proposers of the other two motions have spoken, but will move their motions later. This procedure allows a general debate to be held on all three, before Synod moves onto debating and voting on each one specifically in turn (in the order 36, 35, 13).

4.50 pm All motions and amendments have now been moved. Voting will take place shortly.

5.05 pm Pete Spiers’ amendment (item 36) was carried on a vote by houses, voting figures below.

  For Against Abstentions
Bishops 40 5 1
Clergy 122 70 1
Laity 107 85 4

Following this amendment, the text of item 35 (a proposed amendment to item 13), became:

35 (as amended by item 36) Leave out all the words after “That this Synod” and insert

“(a) noting the significant support the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure has received in the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of diocesan synods, and

(b) desiring that the draft Measure be returned to the Synod for consideration on the Final Approval Stage substantially unamended so that it can be seen if the proposals embodied in it in the form in which it has been referred to the dioceses can attain the level of support required to achieve Final Approval,

request the House of Bishops in the exercise of its power under Standing Order 60(b) not to amend the draft Measure substantially.”.

5.25 pm Item 35 (as amended by item 36) was carried on a vote by houses, voting figures below

  For Against Abstentions
Bishops 26 15 5
Clergy 128 64 0
Laity 111 85 1

5.30 pm Item 13 (as amended by item 35) was then carried on a show of hands. Here is the final text of the motion as passed by Synod.

13 (as amended by item 35)

*That this Synod,

(a) noting the significant support the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure has received in the Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity of diocesan synods, and

(b) desiring that the draft Measure be returned to the Synod for consideration on the Final Approval Stage substantially unamended so that it can be seen if the proposals embodied in it in the form in which it has been referred to the dioceses can attain the level of support required to achieve Final Approval,

request the House of Bishops in the exercise of its power under Standing Order 60(b) not to amend the draft Measure substantially.*

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tobias haller

Of course, it will all hinge on the meaning of the word "substantially." If what is finally offered is not acceptable, it should be voted down, not adopted out of expediency.

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