Women Bishops in the CofE - Voting at General Synod

Saturday 10 July 2010 saw probably the most tense voting yet on this thorny subject at the Church of England General Synod.

Over the course of the day, Synod voted to note the report of the Revision Committee which we have written about previously. The Committe, remember, were unable to agree on legislation to provide statutory protection for dissenters and ended up recommending a Code of Practice – a solution which both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals had pointed out (on numerous occassions) were simply insufficient and reneged on previous guarantees and promises made by General Synod.

Next, debate and voting moved to 3 amendments put forward by various parties. In some senses these provided a range of choices for Synod.

The first (512a), advocating for seperate dioceses, was defeated; 134 in favour, 285 against and 8 abstentions. The vote for was, perhaps, higher than had been expected and caused renewed interest.

The second amendment (513a), called for an equivalent of TEA (Transfer of Episcopal Authority) – ie a woman diocesan bishop would, at request of a parish, transfer her authority to a male bishop suitable to the parish. This was defeated in houses Bishops 10-28-2 (aye-no-abst), Clergy 52-124-3, Lay 73-118-4.

Finally, amendment 514a was put forward by Canterbury and York. This was seen as a middle ground, essentially providing for a “sharing” of authority between diocesan and alternate bishop. The mood in the chamber was, some have reported, conciliatory – on both sides, it might be noted. However the amendment was defeated in houses with Bishops (25-15-0) and Lay (106-86-4) voting in favour, but clergy voting against 85-90-5.

Further amendments lapsed through lack of the 40 members needed to call a discussion and vote.

One major sentiment in the Synod was shock that the Archbishops' amendment had been defeated. Certainly the coming days will be interesting.

As expected, various parties have already released statements.

Women and the Church (WATCH):

Full Steam Ahead for Women Bishops
Church can Move Forward at Last

WATCH is delighted that the Church has today affirmed its wish to appoint women as bishops on the same basis as men.

The General Synod, meeting in York, re-iterated its decision of July 2008 that when women are appointed bishops they will be in charge of their entire Diocese. Amendments suggesting that there should be separate dioceses for those opposed, or permanent flying bishops, or that parishes should automatically be transferred to another bishop, were all rejected by the Synod.

Hilary Cotton, Vice-Chair of WATCH, said, ‘We are absolutely delighted that Synod has stuck with its decision of two years ago and wants women to be bishops with full authority. This is good news for all women, not just women in the Church.’

Rachel Weir Chair of WATCH said, ”This has been an agonisingly slow journey and the Church has rightly wanted to do all it could for those who find this difficult, but we are delighted that Synod has made the right decision in the end”. Now at last the Church can move forward and accept the wonderful gifts of leadership that our women bring.”

On Monday the Synod will decide what minor amendments to make. It will also be given the opportunity to vote for the simplest possible legislation, in other words that ‘the Church will appoint male and female bishops’. Arrangements for those opposed would then be entrusted to individual bishops under a Code of Practice that will be drawn up in the near future.

This is not the end of the journey. The wider Church will now be invited to debate the proposals and if approved General Synod will have a final vote on them in about eighteen months time.

(This via Thinking Anglicans – original not yet on WATCH website.)

Anglican Mainstream, claiming to represent both evangelicals and catholics, have this:


ANGLO-CATHOLIC and Evangelical members of the Church of England’s General Synod, meeting in York this weekend, have asked for an “urgent” meeting following Synod’s defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment on the Measure which would allow Women to be Bishops in the Church of England.

The Archbishops’ put forward an unprecedented amendment to the Women Bishops Revision Committee’s recommendations , which they felt would help maintain unity within the church and be pastorally sensitive to those who, from theological and conscience issues, cannot accept the Episcopal ministry of women.

Despite a majority of synod voting FOR the Archbishops’’ amendment, it failed on a “procedural device” of requiring a two-thirds majority in all three houses: Bishops, clergy and laity. In the House of Clergy, the vote was split 50/50.

The subsequent crisis in the CofE, and its Synodical and Episcopal leadership has led senior Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical leaders this evening to request and urgent meeting with both Archbishops to discuss the matter before Synod resumes its Women Bishop debates on the issue on Monday morning.

In the meantime, leaders of the two groups within the CofE are asking parishes to pray earnestly this weekend for grace and wisdom for the General Synod as they seek God’s will for His church.

and this:

The debate in synod is not about gender equality. It is about the liberty to hold within the Church of England two views about leadership in the church which are compatible with scripture and tradition.  Most have accepted that there will be women bishops in the Church of England.

The problem the Archbishops were trying to address was trying to address was the problem of monoepiscopacy, the belief that only one bishop can have jurisdiction in one geographical area. Synod was trying to find a way in which

i)      all bishops would be of equal status and
ii)     would provide a way in which those who, on grounds of scripture and theology, cannot accept women as bishops, can continue to flourish within the Church of England without diminishing the status of women bishops.

So far we have yet to find a solution. Further meetings to address this will take place.

Philip Giddings
Chris Sugden

Forward in Faith have this:

Forward in Faith notes that the amendment to the draft Measure to permit the ordination of women as bishops standing in the names of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York failed to gain approval today by just five votes in the House of Clergy, despite the fact that a significant majority of the members of Synod voted in its favour.

We naturally share the Archbishops' disappointment at this turn of events and will now take counsel together, as we await the resumption of the debate on Monday.

And the Catholic Group on Synod this:

We deeply regret that the General Synod has decided to ignore the leadership of the chief pastors of the Church of England Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

The voting was by the three Houses of Synod separately, with support from the Bishops and Laity but not from the Clergy. In total, 216 people voted in favour and 191 against with 9 abstentions – so there was support for the Archbishops' amendments.

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.

The process in General Synod is not over and we would wish to be involved in the ongoing discussions as to a way forward that includes all loyal members of the Church of England.

So where are we at? Debate continues on Monday, although it goes without saying that there will be pretty involved conversation today (Sunday). Stay tuned. And pray.

We'll do our best to keep you updated from across the oceans. For a breadth of coverage you might also want to peruse Anglican Mainstream and Thinking Anglicans.


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  1. Deb

    Appreciate this – had trouble finding concise summary. Thanks.

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