CofE rejects safeguards for objectors to women bishops
Safeguards for objectors to women bishops proposed by two of the Church of England’s most senior clerics failed to achieve a majority in the House of Clergy at the General Synod on Saturday and will therefore have to be scrapped.
The vote outcome is a blow to hopes of averting a walk-out by Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals in the Church of England who oppose the introduction of women bishops.
The proposed safeguards for objectors received the backing of a majority of the houses of bishops and laity of the General Synod.
However, they did not win a majority of the House of Clergy which according to voting procedures means the proposals will be shelved as they must obtain a majority in both houses.
Martin Dales, spokesman for the Catholic Group on General Synod, said in a statement, “By rejecting the opportunity for unity that the amendments they proposed would have achieved, it has made it very difficult for those who in conscience cannot accept the ministry for women priests and bishops.”
General Synod members are to resume debating draft legislation introducing women bishops on Monday.
The safeguards for objectors to women bishops were supported by 216 members and opposed by 191. But the vote in the House of Clergy was 90 against and 85 in favour with five abstentions.
Earlier, the General Synod heard impassioned speeches both in favour and against the proposals put by the archbishops.
These proposals would have strengthened the legal position of male bishops ministering in dioceses where parishes objected to women bishops.
But pro-women’s ordination campaigners claimed the concessions could lead to a “two track episcopacy”.
The Venerable Christine Allsopp, Archdeacon of Northampton, told the General Synod she was “dismayed” by the concessions put by the archbishops.
“I was dismayed by the last minute intervention by the archbishops in proposing the amendment before us,” she said.
“We recognise their good intentions in trying to help us all to hold together but I do not believe that this is good news, I do not believe that this will deliver and it is certainly not good news for women clergy
“A considerable number of us wrote to the archbishops to indicate our views because they had not been sought before.”
She added, “If this amendment is passed I am seriously questioning whether I can vote for the final legislation thus amended.”
The Rt Rev Laurie Green, Bishop of Bradwell and acting Bishop of Chelmsford, also urged the Synod to vote against the proposals.
He said, as in the story of the Emperor’s new clothes, the proposals could leave a new woman bishop open to questioning by a child as to whether she has got all her “episcopal bits”.
He added, “Nobody is happy to vote against their own archbishops’ amendment, but I fear that otherwise we will have bits of bishop all over the shop.”
Christina Rees, a member of the General Synod from Royston, Herts, and a leading campaigner for women to be consecrated as bishops, said, “What I regret I believe this amendment would create is a two track system – the very thing that Synod has made it clear that it does not want.”
However, the Rev Prebendary David Houlding, from London, a leading member of Catholic Group in Synod, told the General Synod of the importance of backing the archbishops’ proposals.
“If this amendment fails then I do not see where the future lies,” he said.
He added, “The Church of England is my home. It is where I belong, I was baptised at 10 weeks old in the little country church at the bottom of the garden.
“I was ordained many years ago at the age of 23 years – almost the youngest age possible. The problem is not that I might leave the Church of England, the problem is that I will be staying in the Church of England.”
Dr Williams told the Synod earlier that he and Dr Sentamu had a responsibility to try to find ways of preserving the “highest degree” of communion possible.
He said the idea of co-ordinate jurisdiction” between female bishops and male bishops appointed to minister to objectors would not take away any ability or prerogative of the diocesan bishop.
“It does not sanction prejudice or discrimination, it does not envisage any automatic obligation that disadvantages women bishops as distinct from men,” he said. (Source: PA)