Media Centre

Revision Committee on Women in the Episcopate (1)

The Revision Committee established by the General Synod to consider the draft legislation on enabling women to become bishops in the Church of England today completed the first phase of its work. The Committee has further meetings planned between now and December and is aiming to complete its task by Christmas so that its report can be debated in full Synod in February and the draft legislation begin its Revision Stage in full Synod.

The Committee received nearly 300 submissions, including more than 100 from members of General Synod. Many of these offered alternatives to the proposal in the draft legislation to make provision by way of statutory code of practice for those unable on grounds of theological conviction to receive the episcopal and/or priestly ministry of women.

In the seven meetings that it has held so far, the Committee has considered each of these alternatives: additional dioceses; the vesting by statute of certain functions in bishops with a special responsibility for those with conscientious difficulties; the creation of a recognised society for those with conscientious difficulties; and the adoption of the simplest possible legislation without a statutory code of practice.

Of these, the Committee has, after receiving oral evidence and having lengthy discussions, voted to amend the draft Measure to provide for certain functions to be vested in bishops by statute rather than by delegation from the diocesan bishop under a statutory code of practice. The Committee will now be working through the consequential details flowing from this decision.

The work of the Revision Committee, whose task is to scrutinise the draft legislation line by line and consider submissions for amendment, is one stage in a process that still has a number of years to run. It will be open to the full Synod to revisit matters considered by the Revision Committee and to amend the draft legislation as it sees fit.

Thereafter it will have to be considered by all diocesan synods and a majority of them will need to vote for the legislation before it can come to the Synod for final approval. At that stage a two-thirds majority would be required in each of the three houses of Synod (bishops, clergy and laity) before the legislation could go to Parliament and eventually for Royal Assent. On any basis it is unlikely that the first female bishop will be consecrated before 2014.

The membership of the Revision Committee was announced in March 2009.