Tag Archives: women bishops

BREAKING: CoE Synod Approves Women Bishops!

The Guardian live blog of the synod has just reported that all three houses have approved the legislation:

General Synod votes for female bishops

General Synod votes in favour in all three houses:

Bishops: 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 abstention.

Clergy: 162 in favour, 25 against, 4 abstentions

Laity: 152 in favour, against 45, 5 abstentions.

That’s approval rates of 93%, 85%, and 75%, for each of the houses of bishops, clergy and laity, respectively.

This will have been the first vote of three.

From a CoE Twitter account:

about to take first of three votes on women bishops. first vote is on principle, second and third on enabling legislation

UPDATE:

Synod has also voted to amend canon legislation, meaning there will be no distinction between men and women in church law

- Guardian live blog

On the motion

That the Canon entitled “Amending Canon No 33” be finally approved

there voted

Bishops 37 in favour, 2 against, 1 recorded abstention
Clergy 164 in favour, 24 against, 3 recorded abstentions
Laity 153 in favour, 40 against, 8 recorded abstentions

and the motion was carried with the necessary two-thirds majorities in all three houses.

- Thinking Anglicans

More, as further detail becomes available.

Some twitter commentary:

From ProfB 

Hey, it worked! Now I’m even more embarrassed to be Catholic! Thanks, Anglicans.

From 

After 500 years the has finally decided that two X chromosomes is not a barrier to leadership. Well done

In his first report from the synod, Andrew Brown quotes Tom Sutcliffe, previously opposed, who says that

the measure would now bring “episcopal femininity” that would enrich the church.

Women Bishops: Approval by 100% of Dioceses!

Women bishops for the Church of England have come one step closer.

Bishop's Mitre

 

Anglican News reports:

The Church of England’s dioceses* have now all voted in favour of the current draft legislation to enable women to be bishops. Manchester was the last diocese to vote and they approved the motion at a meeting of their Synod yesterday.  In 2011 both London and Chichester diocesan synods voted against the legislation.

The February 2014 meeting of General Synod referred the current Women in the Episcopate legislation to the dioceses.

Diocesan Synods all voted in favour of the motion: ‘That this Synod approve the proposals embodied in the draft Bishops and Priests (Consecration and Ordination of Women) Measure and draft Amending Canon No 33.’ Continue reading Women Bishops: Approval by 100% of Dioceses!

Cornwall Supports Women Bishops.

Cornwall just became the latest Anglican diocese formally to endorse proposals for women bishops.

Truro Cathedral

 Diocesan synod is now almost complete, with sentiment thus far overwhelmingly in favour. Every synod that has already voted, has carried the motion, usually overwhelmingly, and in each of the three houses.  Overall, the useful chart at Peter Owen, which summarises the votes for all dioceses, now shows the cumulative votes so far for each of the three houses as:

  • Bishops:  55  (96%)  in favour, 2 against.
  • Clergy: 1205 (92%) in favour, 98 against.
  • Laity: 1362 (93%)  in favour, 100 against.

(For the detailed picture at each diocese, and the scheduled dates for those still outstanding, go to Peter Owen. )

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Blackburn Diocese Votes for Women Bishops

After a narrow vote in favour of women bishops in 2011, the diocese has now come down firmly in favour in all three houses (bishops, clergy and laity), in a vote of 83 to 34 overall – more than three for, to every vote against. From the diocesan website:

The Diocese of Blackburn has voted in favour of the latest legislation to allow women to become bishops.

At a specially convened Diocesan Synod in Blackburn town centre tonight there was a passionate and thoughtful debate about proposed changes to Canon Law to pave the way for the historic move. 

There was also an opportunity to have more detailed discussions during breakout sessions.

All Houses then passed the motion (which could not be altered or added to) by a majority of 83 to 34, with 3 abstentions.

Voting was as follows:

House of Bishops:

For: 2, Against: 1, Abstaining: 0

House of Clergy 

For: 31, Against: 19, Abstaining: 2

House of Laity

For: 50, Against: 14, Abstaining: 1

Back in 2011 the Diocesan Synod of Blackburn Diocese narrowly voted in favour of proposals for the introduction of women bishops into the Church of England.

- full report at Burnley Citizen

Women Bishops for Wales, Ireland, South India, South Africa – Female Cardinals in Rome?

As we wait patiently for the Church of England finally to conclude its slow progress to the ordination of women bishops, there has been progress, elsewhere. The Church of Wales has voted by unexpectedly large margins to approve women bishops, the Church of Ireland which had previously approved women bishops in principle, sprang a surprise by announcing the first woman bishop for the British Isles, and almost unnoticed by the press, the Church of South India similarly announced its first woman bishop.  In South Africa, their 2013 synod was attended by their first two female bishops. An ever bigger surprise could just be in store from the Roman Catholic Church. In the wake of Pope Francis’ remarkable interview with the Jesuit publication Civita Cattolica, there was speculation in some Spanish and Italian papers that he could be preparing to include women not as priests, or as bishops, but as cardinals.

Such a move would be extraordinary, but is not entirely implausible. Commentary at El País and at Il Messaggero, available in English translation at Iglesia Descalza, notes that there is an inherent contradiction between Francis’ acceptance of the current Catholic orthodoxy that women cannot be ordained priests, and his equally clear acceptance that the Church is impoverished if we do not make adequate provision for full inclusion of women in the life of the Church.  This could be resolved symbolically, by including women as cardinals. Procedurally, this could be achieved in one of two ways, with relatively minor adjustments to current rules of discipline – not doctrine.

The more likely and more significant approach would be by admitting women as deacons. This would not be in conflict with any principle derived from the Bible, as defenders of the male priesthood claim that women priests would be, and there is abundant Biblical and historical evidence that women deacons were active in the early Christian communities. There are some Catholics who argue that their role was different to that of modern deacons, but even Pope Benedict acknowledged that the possibility of female deacons existed. Others believe that the necessary changes to church regulations could be implemented quite quickly. This would send a powerful initial signal of greater inclusion for women, and practice is likely to be taken up by substantial numbers of women religious and lay women. The really intriguing thing, is that it also opens up a path to women as cardinals. This is because although the usual career path to cardinals’ red hats is as priest, to bishop, archbishop and then cardinal, this is not the only one available. It is claimed technically, the minimum requirement for eligibility is no more than ordination as a deacon.

The other possible route to women cardinals, would be to revert to earlier practice, in which even the diaconate was not an essential precondition – there have in the past been laymen appointed as cardinals. If lay men, why not lay women? This too, could be achieved with a relatively simple change to the rules, but by affecting only those individuals so named, and not the much greater number admitted as deacons, would be more purely symbolic in value, and so both less useful, and less likely.

Some of the commentary along these lines has suggested, based on personal acquaintance with Pope Francis,that he is already thinking along these lines. Since this possibility was first mooted in the press, there has been feverish speculation that he could even name the first female cardinal in his first consistory, in February 2014. Such a move, certainly in the short term, would surprise me, and his in fact been flatly dismissed by the papal spokesman, Fr Lombardi. He did however agree that technically and legally, the possibility exists, and did not rule it out for future.This dramatic change will not come as early as next year, but there are good reasons for thinking that tor women, as for gays and lesbians, and for those who are divorced and remarried, under Francis, this is no longer the hostile church that it was under Benedict XVI and John Paul II. For inclusion of all, the tectonic plates of the church have shifted.

We see this most directly in the simple fact that this is being discussed at all. Under the previous two popes, there was a simple claim that women’s ordination was not possible, could not even be discussed, and that was an end of it. Benedict even dismissed Bishop Morrison of Australia, simply for suggesting that we should consider women’s ordination. .Francis has instead acknowledged that there are dangers in this kind of authoritarianism and certainty, that there must be dialogue with the whole church, reverting to the language of Vatican II of the church as “the people of God” and declaring unambiguously that we need to develop a new theology of women that ensure them a rightful place in the church, that we can hear their voices.

Others would respond that there is no need for a “new” theology of women, that outside the ivory towers of the Vatican, a substantial, credible theology of women already exists. What is needed, is simply that the present all-male establishment take proper note. The genie is out of the bottle, and will not return. We know that a substantial proportion of Catholics support married clergy, and want at least to discuss seriously how to create greater inclusion for women, as priests or otherwise. The voices that under Benedict and John Paul were cowed into silence, will hold their tongues no longer. Encouraged by Francis’ call for dialogue, we should now expect to hear a great deal more thoughtful commentary, and proposals, on a stronger place for Catholic women.  Up to now, the Catholic Church has lagged far behind other denominations in this respect, but at last it is at least beginning to catch up.

It may be wishful thinking to hope for women cardinals (or even deacons) any time soon, but it is no longer entirely fanciful to look ahead to some future date when a pope, opening a general council of the church (in Sao Paolo? or Manila?) may be accompanied by her wife.

Terry Weldon

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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
  • WATCH
  • 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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UNFOLDING ADVENTURE

Christina Rees

This article first appeared in ‘New Directions’ (the monthly magazine for members of  Forward in Faith) at the invitation of its editor, Nicholas Turner. We reprint it here with his permission, as it is relevant to all within the Church of England who seek to engage with the issue of opening the episcopate to women I believe that part of what we are seeing at this time is God breaking down unholy barriers of our own making and causing us to face our fears and prejudices by the cleansing and purifying power of his Holy Spirit. The obedient response is for us to submit ourselves to God’s action and to try to discern the ways in which we are being called to change.

Change is, of course, often painful and difficult, for individuals as well as for institutions. As Christians seeking to remain faithful to our heavenly Father, change can be a real threat: have we heard and discerned correctly, or are we being led astray into error? In his email inviting me to write this article, the editor (of New Directions) referred to the place in which we are now in the Church of England as the ‘end times’. I realise that it must seem like that to many. With all that is in me I fervently believe that it is not. In fact, I see where we are now in the church in regards to opening the episcopate to women as the dawning of a new era in which we will discover more of the kingdom of God among us in greater strength, power, truth and grace.

Part of what we have to acknowledge is that none of us knows precisely where we are being led. The walk of faith is an unfolding adventure, requiring, step by step, trust in the guidance and indwelling of God’s Spirit. We are reliant on God not only as individual disciples but also, corporately, as an institution.

As individuals, we need to take responsibility for our spiritual health and discipline, our attitudes and actions. As the institutional church, to a greater extent, we have to rely on our systems, structures and leaders to keep us attentive, responsive and faithful. All of this requires trust, something that has been in woefully short supply in our church.

Trusting one another and being willing to discuss issues about which we hold very different views does not imply, or necessarily lead to, agreement. What it can do, though, is lead to a greater understanding of each other’s views and concerns and a greater sense of our connectedness in the heart of God.

As part of the subject of this article I was asked to address the issue of how a church that consecrates women as bishops will ‘cope’ with the continued existence of those elsewhere on the churchmanship spectrum as honoured members. First of all, I greatly hope that we will not merely be ‘coping’ with those who, for a variety of reasons, disagree with women’s ordination. What I would like to think is that we can come to the position of living, working and ministering more honestly and openly together.

That will require an ongoing commitment on the part of the mainstream church and those who remain opposed to women’s ordination to mutual respect and mutual acceptance. It will also require on the part of Forward in Faith and Reform an acceptance of the reality of where we are in the Church of England in regards of the position of women.

Back in 1988, the then Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, said, ‘I believe women ought to be ordained to the priesthood … I believe that truths which were there from the beginning in the Christian faith can lie dormant until the social conditions are right for them to be perceived. And I affirm that the time has come to express this truth in the life of the Church.’

A year later, Dr Robert Runcie, then Archbishop of Canterbury, said at General Synod, ‘I remain of the conviction that the ordination of women to the priesthood ought to be construed as an enlargement and extension of the historic Christian ministry.’ Neither of these men could be described as capricious revisionists, and their comments arose from years of rigorous and serious engagement with the issues, something to which the  Church as a whole has been committed for many years.

As a result of this engagement, women were ordained as deacons nearly twenty years ago and as priests twelve years ago. There are over 2000 licensed priests who are women, and now one in every five Church of England clergy is female. Over the next few years we will be drafting legislation that will make it legal for women to be consecrated as bishops.

There cannot be genuinely mutual respect unless this reality is acknowledged and accepted – not necessarily agreed with – but accepted as where we are as a church. Only
then can we go about the business of honouring each other’s presence and position. We have got to where we are by a steady, prayerful and painstaking process that will continue in our synods and in the College and House of Bishops. Our church is imperfect, but it is what we have. We hold in tension the reality of the church as a particular institution and also our understanding of the Church universal as the body of Christ. In that Church there are no synods and working parties, no legislation and arrangements, only Christ as the head, ‘from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.’ [Ephesians 4.16]

Until the eventual reconciliation of all of creation with God, until the ultimate triumph of love, we will have to live with our flawed and imperfect structures and also with our flawed and imperfect selves. Theologians tell us that God has the patience to wait for,and the power to bring about, this ultimate fulfilment and reconciliation. If only our perspective and vision could be so enlarged! It is apparent that, with the issue of women’s ordination, and with other issues where there is difference, we cannot agree on what Scripture says or even on how to interpret it There is, of course, the principle that, when there is a seeming contradiction in Scripture, to go for what is clear and to build on that. One thing that is clear is that we, men and women, together, are made in the image of God: ‘So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’ [Genesis 1.27] There is not more of the image of God in the male and less in the female, or more of God in the female and less in the male. Together, and equally, we are made in God’s image.

It is also clear that the baptism of Christ is not different for males and females, but the same for both. All those who are baptized into Christ share the same inheritance. Hence the famous cry of women, ‘Either ordain us or don’t baptize us!’ Likewise, men and women are to share equally in the ongoing life of the Spirit. On the day of Pentecost, men and women together received the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire and in the sound of rushing wind.

When Paul wrote his great treatise in his letter to the Romans on the pre-eminence of salvation by faith and of new life in the Spirit, it was not a gendered message. Women and men together were included in the salvation offered by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul, the traditional Jew, was passionate about the transformed state of those who are in Christ: ‘But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.’ [Romans 7.6] This liberation was not just for men, or just for women, but for both men and women.

In 1 Corinthians, when Paul enumerates the gifts of the Spirit, it is clear that they are not given only to men or only to women, but to all who are in Christ. After his wonderful description of the parts of the body of Christ, Paul writes: ‘Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ [1 Corinthians 12. 27–31].

In 1992, Desmond Tutu, then Archbishop of Capetown, wrote, ‘I am more convinced than ever before that theologically, biblically, socially, ecumenically, it is right to ordain women to the priesthood. The most radical act that can happen to any human being is to become a member of the body of Christ. If gender cannot be a bar to baptism, then gender cannot be a bar to ordination. The Bible is quite clear that the divine image is constitutive of humanity, irrespective of gender.’ In that one comment, Tutu encapsulates the far-reaching ramifications of what it means to be a Christian. Former views of what men and women were, and what they could and could not be, or do, are replaced by a new understanding of our identity in Christ.

In the months to come I pray that we might be able to reflect in new ways on the infinitude of God’s unconditional love and on our own absolute indebtedness for our very existence and for our capacity to relate, to reflect, to love and to be loved. I like to think that we can begin to trust God more as we dwell on the mystery and wonder of the universe we inhabit, and on our own place within that universe.

To what extent are we willing to discern and discover God’s purposes for ourselves, our church and for all of creation? To what extent are we willing to allow ourselves and others the freedom and opportunity to be changed into the likeness of the Lord? Do we dare to accept God’s invitation to join in the Divine Dance? Whatever we choose, however willing or unwilling we might be, we can trust that the Dance will go on.

Christina Rees is a member of The General Synod of the Church of England and of its Appointments Committee, and a founder member of the Archbishops’ Council as well as on the Church of England’s Communications Committee. She is a member of CSCS. Christina is best known as the Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church) but is also a member of GRAS (Group for Rescinding the Act of Synod), as well as a supporter of Inclusive Church. She speaks and preaches widely and is a professional life and business
coach. Her books include ‘The Divine Embrace’ and ‘Voices of this Calling’.

 

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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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