What really happened in the Church of England’s debate of female bishops?

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There’s a difference of opinion as to what happened in the Church of England yesterday…


Ruth Gledhill writes for The Times:

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday when the Church of England’s governing body rejected moves to create male “co-bishops” to work alongside female bishops in an effort to placate traditionalists. Women bishops will now be given total authority.

Riazat Butt, in The Guardian, saw a compromise :

The archbishops of Canterbury and York has avoided humiliation in the Church of England’s law-making body, the General Synod, by putting off a split over the ordination of women bishops.

The synod voted against measures that would have given traditionalists the legal right to ignore the leadership of women bishops. The proposal by the Manchester diocesan synod would have accepted that parishes opposed to female diocesan bishops could be ministered by male bishops.

But the synod also rejected an attempt by the Southwark diocese in London to ensure bishops press on with legislation to introduce women bishops….

What the synod agreed to appears to have appeased both sides and brought a rare moment of unity. Synod member Christina Rees said she was delighted by the outcome because it avoided the “legalisation of discrimination”. But a spokeswoman for the campaign group Women and the Church was more circumspect. Sally Barnes said: “It still leaves wiggle room for the bishops to get something in that would be discriminatory.”When asked if she thought the vote was a snub to the archbishops she replied: “It is Synod saying be careful, we’re not going to accept what you say.”

This seems yet again different from John Bingham’s account in The Telegraph:

In a blow to Anglo–Catholic and conservative evangelical wings, the church’s national assembly rejected a move to water down the authority of future female bishops.

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, urged the synod to back the “co–ordinate” plan, saying it was the only way to buy time to allow the House of Bishops to come up with a solution. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, also called for the synod to “leave the door open” for compromise.

After a three–hour debate, all three houses of the synod – bishops, clergy and laity – accepted a motion explicitly rejecting any “substantial” amendments.

What is meant by “substantial” is debatable. The Guardian article says:

In spite of four days of tortuous debate, the synod agreed that its bishops could instead tinker with legislation that would allow the ordination of women as bishops, before returning it to the synod for final approval in July. If that legislation is passed, women bishops could be ordained in 2014.

It is still possible that either side could block the legislation this summer, setting back the process of ordaining women as bishops by at least five years.

The BBC’s Trevor Timpson writes:

Synod members were earlier told by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams: “I think… we have a very high degree of clarity about the basic principles here. I think we have the possibility of some bits of fine-tuning that will take us a little bit further.”

…Hilary Cotton leads the campaign for the women bishops legislation in the group Women and the Church (Watch).

“We are very glad that they had a full and proper debate and decided that that was not the way they wanted to go,” she told the BBC News website about the rejection of the amendment.

But “our pleasure yesterday that we achieved what we wanted to was tempered by what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in the morning, making it clear that there is still a discussion to be had in the House of Bishops.”

Her campaign wanted the legislation to go forward to July’s vote unamended, as the Church’s 44 diocesan synods had endorsed it, she said.

“It lies within the House of Bishops to decided what the future of this legislation is and we’ve complained about that, not because they won’t make good decisions but because it’s all men.”

However, she said, “We know that the vast majority of the House of Bishops want women bishops and they want it in the way that this legislation says.”

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Simon Sarmiento
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This article in the Church Times may make it clearer:

http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=124238

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Leonardo Ricardo
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Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and John Sentamu, Lord of York always seem to push for the last breath of air to be sucked out of almost every positive undertaking at Church...it seems well past time for ¨the Archbishops¨ to allow the Church of England and the Anglican Communion to breath freely again -- you know, in and out, unconstricted by them and their vacuum cleaning political machine!

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Lionel Deimel
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I got all excited when I saw the title of this post. I had read many of the stories in the press and was trying to figure out who won and who lost. Alas, I still don’t know for sure.

Seemingly, the jury is still out. I do not trust the archbishops to leave well enough alone, however, and I therefore do not expect that things will go smoothly in July.

Eventually, of course, there will be female CofE bishops and—in the fullness of time—they will be the full equivalent of male bishops. I cannot predict when that will happen.

It is possible—perhaps even likely—that the archbishops will so irritate proponents of women bishops that any inclination of General Synod members to throw the archbishops a bone by voting for the Covenant will evaporate.

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