Tag Archives: Ordination of women

Women Bishops: CoE Press Release; News Commentary

Following the defeat by General Synod of the women bishops legislation this afternoon the Church of England issued this press release.

General Synod Rejects Draft Legislation on Women Bishops

20 November 2012

The General Synod of the Church of England has voted to reject the draft legislation to allow women to become bishops.

Under the requirements of the Synod the legislation required a two-thirds majority in each of the three voting houses for final draft approval. Whilst more than two thirds voted for the legislation in both the House of Bishops (44-03) and the House of Clergy (148-45), the vote in favour of the legislation in the House of Laity was less than two-thirds (132-74). The vote in the House of Laity fell short of approval by six votes.

In total 324 members of the General Synod voted to approve the legislation and 122 voted to reject it.

The consequence of the “no” vote of terminating any further consideration of the draft legislation means that it will not be possible to introduce draft legislation in the same terms until a new General Synod comes into being in 2015, unless the ‘Group of Six’ (the Archbishops, the Prolocutors and the Chair and Vice Chair of the House of Laity) give permission and report to the Synod why they have done so.

Speaking after the vote the Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “A clear majority of the General Synod today voted in favour of the legislation to consecrate women as Bishops. But the bar of approval is set very high in this Synod. Two-thirds of each house has to approve the legislation for it to pass. This ensures the majority is overwhelming. The majority in the house of laity was not quite enough. This leaves us with a problem. 42 out of 44 dioceses approved the legislation and more than three quarters of members of diocesan synods voted in favour. There will be many who wonder why the General Synod expressed its mind so differently.

“The House of Bishops recognises that the Church of England has expressed its mind that women should be consecrated as bishops. There is now an urgent task to find a fresh way forward to which so many of those who were opposed have pledged themselves.”

The House of Bishops of the Church of England will meet at 08.30am on Wednesday morning in emergency session to consider the consequences of the vote.

Exact voting figures will be found here.

via Thinking Anglicans.

Commentary added by Thinking Anglicans:

To clarify the statement “The vote in the House of Laity fell short of approval by six votes.”, if six members of the House of Laity had voted in favour instead of against, the vote would in that house would have reached the necessary two-thirds majority.

Also at Thinking Anglicans, is a series of useful posts summarizing the reactions from a wide range of sources:

Women Bishops Press Release (as above, with comments by TA readers)

More Responses to the Vote, Part 1, with responses to the vote by:

  • Affirming Catholicism
  • Inclusive Church
  • GRAS

Press Coverage and Commentary updated Wednesday morning, with headlines from:

and a link to CofE Media Briefing for today.

More Responses to the Vote, Part 2, with commentary from:

  • Church of England Evangelical Council
  • Statement from Chairman of Reform on Today’s Synod Vote
  • Forward in Faith reacts to the defeat of the draft Measure
  • Catholic Group on General Synod


 More commentary:

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‘Women Bishops Measure’ in the Church of England – ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

We would urge those of you who are concerned about issues of gender equality within the church to support this appeal from Hilary Cotton, Vice Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church). Although this is primarily an issue for the Church of England, as the established church ministering to all, it does have a wider significance. We also commend Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes’s excellent blog on this issue (mirandathrelfallholmes.blogspot.com)

Please write to your Diocesan bishop before 21 May. Continue reading ‘Women Bishops Measure’ in the Church of England – ‘Are we nearly there yet?’

16th Sunday of Trinity

Rev Jane Fraser

A sermon preached in Worcester Cathedral

There have been times over the summer months when I’ve hardly dared open the newspaper in the morning for fear of what new, headline-grabbing piece I might find on the subject of women bishops or the role of gay clergy within the Church of England. And you’ll be as aware as I am that the underlying theme has not been,  “See how these Christians love one another,” but an almost gleeful, “See how they love to hate one another!”

On the one hand we have those with a more conservative Christian approach to these matters saying, “They’re trying to make it impossible for us to stay,” and on the other hand we have those with a more liberal Christian approach saying, “We don’t want you to leave or to be part of a separate structure within the church.”

And it’s not just the Archbishop of Canterbury who despairs for the future health and
mission of the Church of England!

But let me tell you of another side to all this.

One of the women priests in this diocese decided to invite a few male clergy, known to be opposed to the priesting of women, to an informal lunch. Over a very nice meal (she’s a bit of a ‘foodie’) they each talked about their ministry and its impact on their lives and agreed to meet again – for a very nice lunch. As they got to know each other and their shared interests and vocations (apart from good food), their differences began to seem less important than their common enthusiasm to serve Christ and his church according to their understanding of their vocation. I won’t say that all were converted to the cause of women as priests, but a mutual respect for each other’s ministry was firmly established and some misconceptions demolished.

And there’s another story.

My husband and I had got to know some friends from Canada who we’d met a couple of times on holiday and I’d maintained a lively correspondence with them since. When they were in England last month we invited them over to have a meal with us. Having shared some stories about bringing up teenagers and how, thank God, they eventually grow out of this syndrome, they then told us of their sorrow at finding first one and then the other daughter had ‘come out’ as lesbian and one was now living with her partner. Knowing that I was a priest (and they, too, were Anglicans), I was asked if I would ever conduct a ‘Gay Marriage’ as they called it. Now, although the Anglican Church in Canada has sanctioned the blessing of same sex unions, I was aware that this wasn’t universally accepted over there but I explained the position within the Church of England, which is different. And, possibly fired up by the odd glass of wine, I added my own exposition of the parallels to be seen with our Christian approach to the faithful, exclusive, life-long vows to be made in Christian marriage and how this is reflected in God’s covenant with his church.

At this point I became aware of the look of surprise on the faces of our guests. Clearly, this was not what they had expected to hear! It was also clear that they’d not heard another priest say something affirming of their daughters’ relationships or the potential for commitment and faithfulness within those relationships – and I was afraid I’d put my foot in it. Fortunately, that was not the case and, since then, I’m aware of a dialogue having been opened up between these parents and their daughters on a different level from that of disappointment and disapproval. The Spirit moves in mysterious ways!

These stories, and the Bible readings we’ve just heard all illustrate the basic Christian belief that we must be people who do not create barriers that isolate people from each other but, rather, build bridges between them. This is particularly true in the area of reconciliation, where we must seek to get beyond past hurts, difficulties and differences of belief and opinion and move toward a more positive, Christ-like attitude in our relationships with those we encounter on a daily basis.

In our gospel reading, Jesus gives instructions to his disciples about the proper methods for seeking reconciliation. OK, this does seems a bit legalistic in the way it sets out specific ways of proceeding if a first attempt at reconciliation isn’t successful. Also, and this is a point that we might find difficult to swallow, Jesus goes on to say that if someone goes as far as to ignore what the church is suggesting, then he or she should be treated as a Gentile or a tax collector. In other words, if we can’t achieve reconciliation, this person should be treated as one outside the community of Israel.

There’s a pattern of behaviour we often encounter in the counselling role that goes like this. Very simply, it’s when one person has a problem with another and instead of going directly to him, he complains to another and another and another, thus creating a triangle of confusion. Modern day counsellors are not the first people to warn us against such destructive behaviour. Jesus did so when he told his disciples to go directly and privately to a person with whom they might have a problem. And if that didn’t work, to take it one step at a time until that person needs to be considered a “Gentile and tax collector.”

Lest this final piece of advice be seen as exceptionally harsh, let’s be clear that the thrust of the reading is to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Christian community. Jesus certainly built bridges with all sorts of outside peoples: lepers, Samaritans, Canaanites, and various other marginalised peoples and, in particular, those regarded as ritually ‘unclean’. Jesus didn’t keep other people at arm’s length, but rather embraced them, seeking to be a brother and neighbour to all he encountered. The only ones left out were those who had placed themselves outside Jesus’ compassion and love by their refusal to listen and their inability to demonstrate forgiveness and reconciliation to others.

Thus, Jesus clearly wants his disciples to know that their starting point should always be to build bridges between members of the community.

We’re to be like my colleague who built a bridge between herself, as a woman priest, and those who found it impossible to accept that the ordination of women might be part of God’s plan for his church – not to mention women in positions of authority over them as bishop.

We’re to be like those friends of mine in Canada who began to move beyond their initial feelings of disappointment and disapproval to the kind of dialogue that arises from our calling to offer unconditional love to our children – however hard that might be. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans echoes Christ’s message of being a bridge builder of reconciliation and takes it further. He tells us to,

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”

He goes on to repeat the second half of the Great Commandment, to

“Love your neighbour as yourself”.

Paul realised that Jesus’ central message of love demands that we go beyond the basics. For him, the one and only act of respect that all humans should ask of their brothers and sisters in Christ is to love. In order to be a great bridge builder between people who find themselves estranged for whatever reason, requires great love, persistence, and strength. It’s unfortunate, but nonetheless a reality, that our Christian community and local parishes are often in need of significant bridge building to reconcile individuals and groups who stand opposed on various issues, both theologically and socially. I have a great admiration for a couple I know who, when they retired and moved to a different town to be nearer to their family, decided not to go to the local parish church where they’d have been welcomed by lots of other couples who shared their professional interests and lifestyle.

Instead, they chose to attend another church, only a couple of miles away, that drew its congregation from an estate with a multi-ethnic population and few people from the professions. They felt they would have more to offer at such a church and, indeed this was the case. It was a strange experience for them and a bit of a culture shock, but what was more important was that they were able to learn to love and respect people whose experience of life was very different from their own.

Today’s lessons call us to demonstrate love, as the one and only debt we owe to any person, by reaching out and seeking reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Few people are not in need of reconciliation, whether it be with a member of our family, a friend, a co-worker, or even God. Today, our Dean and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. And it’s right that we should always celebrate such an anniversary for it demonstrates what we mean when we say that Christian marriage is about our lifelong vows of commitment and faithfulness, reflecting God’s commitment and faithfulness to us. For I’m sure that even in such a well-ordered household as the Dean’s, there will have been times of testing and the occasional frisson of discord. Christian marriage has become counter-cultural in demanding that we resolve our differences and difficulties within that relationship and seek reconciliation, rather than abandoning it.

The scriptures provide abundant evidence that God is not only present and seeking our reconciliation, but additionally, we have a significant responsibility to make sure that the bridges we seek to build are actually constructed. In order to do this, it’s necessary to believe that God is there, waiting for us to return, and then transform God’s forgiveness of us into our forgiveness and reconciliation of others.

As a Minister in Secular Employment, working in the field of sex education and sexual counselling, my ministry is largely with those who do not belong to a church. That’s not to say that none of them identify as Christians – far from it. I daily come across people who call themselves Christians, have a prayer life that would put mine to shame, and perhaps even used to, once upon a time, attend church regularly. There may be one of a number of reasons for this but what stands out is the frequency with which I hear stories of a falling-out. Perhaps they didn’t like the new vicar or a particular clique that had become dominant in the congregation. What saddens me most is to hear how many have fallen away because of a perception that the church (or God) wouldn’t approve of a new relationship they’d formed or something they’d done.

The fact that I hear these stories, as a woman in a dog collar carrying out her daily work, is testimony to a crying need for reconciliation – for another Christian to hear their story in confidence – a link, somehow to Christ – like the woman suffering from an issue of blood who touched Jesus’ robe, desperate for healing but, believing herself to be unclean, didn’t dare to ask in public what might be refused.

A powerful image, I believe, that captures the confidence we must have that God is willing, able, and desirous for our return to him. He, in turn will send us forth to build bridges of reconciliation with our brothers and sisters.

Legal implications of the ordination of women to the episcopate

Will Adam

The decision to permit the ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England will be based primarily on theology. Many believe (including Forward in Faith) that the decision to go ahead was made in principle when the General Synod requested that legislation be drawn up and brought before them

However, lurking behind any decision based on theology, principle and justice there lie a number of decisions that need to be made on how that decision can be put into practice. Much depends on the legislation itself. There are different options before the group drafting legislation ranging from a single clause measure simply removing the bar to women priests being ordained as bishops to more complex scenarios allowing their ordination but preventing their appointment as either diocesan bishops or archbishops.  We will not know the shape of the legislation until the report is published.

The first legal issue that will undoubtedly arise is the question of whether or not the General Synod and Parliament has the authority to permit the ordination of women as bishops. A spate of litigation questioning this authority followed the decision to ordain women priests. None of the challenges were successful and it is therefore very unlikely that anyone will be able to mount a successful challenge this time.

The second issue that I would like to point out is about the recognition of ordination. The Church of England consistently states that the orders of all those who are lawfully ordained should be recognised. Yet the legislation bringing in the ordination of women to the priesthood provided a mechanism for the ministry of lawfully ordained female clergy to be refused by PCCs and (at the time) by Diocesan Bishops. The refusal to accept the ministry of a woman bishop has further-reaching consequences as it could mean that some might refuse to recognise the efficacy of confirmation and ordination when conferred by her. Great care will need to be taken that the rights of female bishops and supporters, as well as opponents, of women’s ministry are adequately protected.

The courts are notoriously unwilling to pronounce on questions of the recognition of holy orders, most recently in the case of Blake v Associated Newspapers.1 The recognition or otherwise of the ministry of female bishops also has knock-on effects in such areas as canonical obedience, submission to lawful authority and acceptance of the direction of the bishop in matters such as liturgy. There are already calls for the setting up of a third province free of women bishops and priests. Detailed proposals have been published by Forward in Faith.2 Such a move would have huge legal implications in terms of the synodical structure of the church, the parish system, the training and discipline of clergy and, possibly, such areas as ecclesiastical courts.

The Church is entering a minefield first of legislation and then, assuming the change is brought about, of dealing with the consequences of that change. These consequences include practical, legal matters and great care will need to be taken to ensure that the Church gets it right.

1 [2003] EWHC 1600 QB.
2 www.forwardinfaith.com

Will Adam is Priest in Charge of Girton, Ely Diocesan Ecumenical Officer, and a
Research Student at Cardiff Law School

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