House of Bishops

Introduction

The House of Bishops is one of the three Houses of the General Synod. All members of the House of Bishops are  members of the General Synod.  The House of Bishops also meets separately from the Synod to discuss issues of episcopal ministry, mission and national issues affecting the Church of England.

There are two types of bishop in the Church of England:

  • Diocesan bishops are the chief pastors of their diocese.  An Archbishop is a diocesan bishop who has pastoral responsibility not only over his diocese, but also over a collection of dioceses called a province.
  • Other bishops - primarily suffragan bishops but also some assistant bishops - are appointed to work with a diocesan bishop in the exercise of his pastoral responsibility for the diocese.  Three suffragan bishops are Provincial Episcopal Visitors (also known as 'flying bishops') with a special responsibility to support parishes that have petitioned under the Episcopal Ministry Act of Synod 1993.

All serving bishops in the Church of England comprise a body known as the College of Bishops.

The House of Bishops consists of the following members of the College of Bishops:

  • all 44 diocesan bishops of the Church of England (which includes the offshore dioceses of Sodor & Man and Gibraltar in Europe);
  • the Bishop of Dover (who performs many of the Archbishop of Canterbury's diocesan functions); and 
  • seven suffragan bishops elected from among the total number of suffragan bishops, (four from the Province of Canterbury, and three from the Province of York).

The three Provincial Episcopal Visitors can also attend and speak at meetings of the House, though are not members and do not have voting rights (unless they are elected to the House as a suffragan bishop).

At its meeting of 7 February 2013 the House decided that eight senior women clergy, elected regionally, will participate in all meetings of the House until such time as there are six female members of the House.  The necessary changes to the House's Standing Orders were made at its meeting in May 2013.  Click here to see the final regional election results.

 

Meetings of the House

In addition to meeting as part of the General Synod the House of Bishops meets normally twice a year in May and December. A Summary of Decisions from these meetings is normally published on this website at the time that papers are circulated for the following session of General Synod.  Additional meetings of the House may be called on an ad hoc basis.

Click here for a list of members of the House of Bishops.

The House issues guidance from time to time on a range of  topics.  A selection of this guidance can be found on the right-hand side of this page.

Under Article 7 of the Constitution of the General Synod, the House has a special role in relation to matters involving doctrine, liturgy or the Sacraments.  It has the right to amend legislation which relates to doctrine, liturgy or the Sacraments as it sees fit, before such legislation is put before the Synod for final approval. 

Other meetings

The College of Bishops has an annual residential meeting in September. Every three years, the bishops of the Church in Wales, the Church of Ireland and the Episcopal Church of Scotland are invited. 

A further 24 hour residential meeting of diocesan bishops together with the archbishops is held shortly after Easter. There are also eight regional groups of bishops, which include all diocesans and suffragans within the region. These meet independently of the House two/three times a year, and are convened by a bishop within the region.

The House of Bishops' Standing Committee

The House has a Standing Committee of eight members which meets at least three times a year under the Chairmanship of the Archbishop of York.  The Standing Committee's role is to set the agendas for meetings of the House of Bishops, represent the House in discussions with other denominations and deal with certain matters on behalf of the House.

The Standing Committee comprises eight members who are determined as follows (current appointments are marked in bold):

      (i)  the two bishops elected as members of the Archbishops' Council on the
           basis that one of them serves as Business Committee Chair; or
      (ii) if that is not the case one of the Council bishops and the bishop elected
           on to the Business Committee
           ( the Bishop of Rochester and the Bishop  of Dover);


Other Sub-Committees

A number of time-limited Working Parties or Sub-Groups may also be set up from time to time to consider particular matters on behalf of the House.  This currently includes groups such as:

Administration

The Secretary General is Secretary to the House.  Other staff from the Central Secretariat in Church House, Westminster, who specifically serve the House are:

Ross Gillson, Administrative Secretary to the House 
Email: ross.gillson@churchofengland.org
Telephone: 020 7898 1375

Miss Jennifer Hornby, Temporary Executive Officer
Email: jennifer.hornby@churchofengland.org
Telephone: 020 7898 1372

The Revd Canon Dr Jeremy Worthen, Theological Consultant
Email: jeremy.worthen@churchofengland.org  
Telephone: 020 7898 1488