18 May 2010
At its meeting in York on 17/18 May, the House of Bishops discussed the Revision Committee’s report on the draft legislation to enable women to become bishops.
The House noted that the forthcoming meeting of the General Synod in July would be a key moment in the legislative process when all 470 members of Synod would have the opportunity to debate the report and proceed to a clause by clause consideration of the draft Measure and Amending Canon. The House believed that the Synod would be helped in its task by the clarity and thoroughness of the Committee’s analysis.
As previous debates have shown, a majority of the members of the House strongly support the admission of women to the episcopate. At the same time there remains a strong commitment on the part of the House to preserve an honoured place within the Church of England for those unable to receive this development. There continues to be a variety of views within the House over the best way of achieving that, while enabling women fully to exercise their new ministry.
The July Synod has the potential to be one of the most demanding meetings of the Synod for many years. It will, in the view of the House, be an occasion when all concerned will need to listen with particular care to those with views that differ from their own and to acknowledge the passion and sincerity with which those views are held.
The House is aware that there are those who believe that the present legislative process does not have the potential to lead to a satisfactory conclusion and that a better outcome is more likely to be achieved in some years’ time. Most members of the House consider, however, that it is crucial to keep faith with the present process. They see no grounds for believing that the issues with which the Church is grappling will become significantly easier to resolve with the passage of time.
The July debates will provide the chance for the full Synod to decide whether it wishes to make significant changes to the draft legislation, including whether to retain an approach based on a statutory code of practice or to support amendments giving effect to some other approach. What happens thereafter will depend on what Synod decides. On any basis it will be at least another two years before the mind of the Church of England can be determined at the final approval stage.
The House accepted the recommendation of the Revision Committee that, if the proposal for a statutory code of practice is retained in July, work to develop a fresh draft of the code should start soon thereafter. The House will, in those circumstances, establish a group, constituted consistently with the Committee’s recommendation.
The report of the Revision Committee was published on 8 May.