02 November 2004
Women Bishops in the Church of England?, the report
of the House of Bishops' Working Party on Women in the Episcopate,
chaired by the Rt Revd Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of
Rochester, is published today, Tuesday, 2 November. The General
Synod will discuss the report in February.
Women Bishops in the Church of England? is a survey
of the theological issues the Church needs to consider as it
decides whether or not to ordain women bishops. "We have tried to
do this as comprehensively as possible," says the Bishop of
Rochester, "and hope that our report will prove to be a useful
resource for discussion and debate in the Church as a whole."
The important theological issues covered by the Rochester Report
will be debated by the Synod in February. The Synod will also have
the opportunity, on the basis of a motion from the House of
Bishops, to consider what the next steps should be. Synod will be
invited to agree that, following a period of reflection on the
report, there should be a decision at the July Synod on whether to
embark on the process of removing the legal obstacles to ordaining
women as bishops
The members of the Working Party, women and men, represent a
wide range of views, both lay and ordained, from within and outside
the Church of England. "Our meetings have demonstrated a basic
unity, not only in faith and a commitment to scholarship but often
also in theological approach," said Bishop Michael.
In the course of its meetings, the Working Party heard evidence
directly from representative groups and individuals and received
some 500 items of written evidence. In its task of setting out as
even-handedly as possible the fundamental issues that will need to
be addressed, it has borne three key questions in mind:
- Would it be right in principle for women to be bishops?
- If the answer is 'yes', is this the right time for the Church
of England to ordain women bishops?
- If it is the right time, how should women bishops be introduced
and what provisions should be made for those conscientiously unable
to accept their ministry?
Women Bishops in the Church of England? takes
nothing for granted and examines the fundamental issues that the
Church will need to bear in mind as it seeks to reach a decision.
It goes back to the Bible itself and to the role of bishops in the
Early Church as well as considering how the Church of England
understands the role of the bishop today. It advocates an approach
to the forthcoming debate that is rooted in Scripture and also
makes proper use of tradition and reason.
The chapter that looks at the options facing the Church examines
each one carefully. It does not come down in favour of any one of
them. Rather, as requested by Synod, it focuses on the issues that
need to be addressed in preparation for the debate and leaves it to
Synod to decide the way ahead.
Welcoming the report, the Archbishops of Canterbury, Dr Rowan
Williams, and York, Dr David Hope, said, "We are happy to commend
it for prayerful study within the dioceses of the Church of England
and to invite other Churches in the Anglican Communion and our
ecumenical partners to let us have their reflections on it."
Published alongside the report is a reader's
guide. This and further material to resource reflection on the
report will be available on the Church of England website .
Women Bishops in the Church of
England? is published by Church House Publishing, priced
£12.99, and is available from all Christian bookshops and Church
House Bookshop, 31 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BN, tel.
020-7898 1300, e mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or
on the web at: www.chbookshop.co.uk (mail
The Church of England's General Synod requested a thorough
theological study in July 2000 after debating a motion put by
Archdeacon Judith Rose as follows:
"That this Synod ask the House of Bishops to initiate further
theological study on the episcopate, focusing on the issues that
need to be addressed in preparation for the debate on women in the
episcopate in the Church of England, and to make a progress report
on this study to Synod within the next two years."
An interim progress report was presented to Synod in July
The House of Bishops' Working Party on Women in the
Working Party members
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Revd Dr Michael Nazir-Ali
The Bishop of Stafford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill
Dr Christina Baxter (Principal, St John's College,
The Bishop of Lewes, the Rt Revd Wallace Benn
The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull
The Bishop of Bolton, the Rt Revd David Gillett
The Revd Deacon Christine Hall (Director, Bishop Otter Centre
for Theology and Ministry, Chichester to 2003)
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Christopher Herbert (member
until September 2002)
Professor Ann Loades (University of Durham to 2003 )
The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt Revd Dr Geoffrey
The Archdeacon of Worcester, the Ven Dr Joy Tetley
The Revd Dr Anthony Barratt - The Roman Catholic Church
(Ecumenical Representative on General Synod. Formerly: Vice Rector,
St John's Seminary, Wonersh. Latterly: Our Lady of the Annunciation
Church, New York)
The Revd Dr Richard Clutterbuck - The Methodist Church (Chair of
the British Methodist Faith and Order Committee. Formerly:
Principal of The West of England Ministerial Training Course.
Latterly: Principal of Edgehill Theological College, Belfast)
The Revd Canon Dr Nicholas Sagovsky (Westminster Abbey)
The Revd Canon Professor Anthony Thiselton (University of